Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief of PC Mag, oversees content for the entire PCMag digital network and was a part of the team that brought PC Magazine fully online in 2009. The self-described "Twitter-holic" talks to Kimberly Maul about the magazine's transition to the Web, the iPad, and non-disclosure agreements.
PRWeek: Can you tell me a little bit about your position and what magazines and Web sites you oversee?
Ulanoff: I'm really in charge of all content for our Web sites. We're a fully digital business, so it's pcmag.com; extremetech.com; our blogs, Gearlog, AppScout, Security Watch. We do have PCMag digital edition, which looks like the magazine, but appears on Zinio, Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kindle, and actually as of [last] week, on the iPad.
PRWeek: Personally, what do you write about and what do you cover?
Ulanoff: I've been writing a weekly column for a long time. I try to take the perspective of every man in technology, trying to make experiences with new gadgets and products and services more real and more concrete by talking about my own personal experiences, [like] how it worked for my family or didn't work for my family or me.
PRWeek: PCMag made the move to fully digital in January 2009. How has that impacted the publication and what are your goals going forward?
Ulanoff: It really was an evolution for us. We were lucky in that somehow we were able to look forward in 2008 and see what was coming. We didn't know how bad it would be, but we had a good sense that the print ad sales market was just not going to expand and, in fact, probably going to contract more.
When we made the transition in January 2009, we had already been preparing for it, honestly, for years. I didn't change how my staff was organized. I didn't really lay anybody off. We basically just said, "OK, now this team that was producing the print publication is going to shift gears." We had already been doing Zinio, but they focus[ed] more of their attention on the Zinio product and delivering to other digital platforms. If we hadn't moved forward on our own, if we had waited and been pushed, it would have been a very different story.
PRWeek: What are your thoughts on the iPad? How do you cover such a widespread story like that?
Ulanoff: It's pretty exciting. PCMag.com did get to review it and we were one of a handful that reviewed it before everyone else and gave it 4 ½ stars and an Editor's Choice. I do believe that it set the bar for tablets. It's not that tablets are new – they are not – but they've been tried before and they've either failed in the consumer market or they very quickly moved into a niche market and have done OK.
This is a true consumer product that I think succeeds on many levels. I can't tell you whether or nor everyone will embrace it, but we found it to be a very exciting product and we enjoyed covering it because it has so many aspects and it talks about so many important issues in the technology and media space, including whether or not that this can be the product that saves traditional media.
PRWeek: What is your interaction like with PR and communications professionals?
Ulanoff: I have some very strong relationships with PR people over e-mail and they've been tremendously beneficial to us because we're able to learn about products and services in advance. We are a brand, one of the few that remains, that still sign non-disclosure agreements, so PR people and companies are willing to talk to us early and we keep our mouths shut until the exact time and date when we're allowed to talk about, so that has helped put us in a pretty good position.
PRWeek: And how do you and your staff use social media?
Ulanoff: I'm a bit of a “Twitter-holic.” I love that I can interact with followers, get instant feedback. I learn so much from people on Twitter. And a number of staff members use it in that way.
And, of course, we have accounts for PCMag, ExtremeTech, and all the blogs. We have a Facebook account for a fan page and we use all of that to engage with our audience on an ongoing basis. We use it to develop stories, run polls. Our most recent contest to win an iPad was called "I want an iPad" and was run entirely on Twitter.