After announcing in January a soon-to-be-launched new information site on the World Wide Web, Sosland Publishing Co., publisher of World Grain, has debuted www.world-grain.com. The web site brings together at one place all the information that's important to the worldwide grain, flour milling, feed and oilseeds industries.
Everything you need is just a few clicks away.
Log on to world-grain.com and you'll find international cash grain and futures prices, industry and market news, commodity reports and weather data worldwide — all updated every market day to ensure timeliness. Users also can personalize content, receive customized newsletters automatically via e-mail and provide input through the interactive site.
The web site also features online buyer's guides, industry directories, technical and feature articles, country data, product information and archives of World Grain and its sister publication, Milling & Baking News. Want more? A resource center provides a gateway to an events calendar and education materials. There also are links to industry associations and to Internet sites that provide currency conversion and world time clocks.
But to access all that information, don't forget the hyphen. Persons who log on to worldgrain.com (sans hyphen) will end up at a web site for a food manufacturing and exporting company in Bankok, Thailand.
Since that name was already taken, much to our chagrin, we bandied about several alternatives for our online name: wg.com, worldgrain-online, grain.com. But in the end, we simply stuck a hyphen between the two words that make up the name of this magazine.
The obvious question now is how world-grain.com differs from the magazine and how the two will work together?
"The online version is immediate, daily, regularly updated information that the magazine could never provide in such a timely fashion," said Mark Cornwell, publisher of World Grain. "It is meant to complement World Grain magazine."
Melissa Cordonier Alexander, a former editor of World Grain magazine, now manages the editorial content of the web site. Using her knowledge and contacts gained from 20 years of experience as a journalist covering the grain, oilseeds and cotton industries, she selects and posts on the web site daily news articles affecting grain, flour, feed and oilseeds worldwide. She also develops and updates world-grain.com's original content, including statistical reports, market information and crop weather and condition summaries.
Mrs. Alexander stressed that world-grain.com was not intended to be simply an online version of the magazine. "Each medium, print and ‘cyberspace,' has distinct characteristics, and the magazine and the web site are meant to complement each other by taking advantage of each medium's unique benefits," she said. "World-grain.com offers content and functionality that's different from the magazine."
Although a few selected feature articles and product news items from the magazine are posted on world-grain.com, much of the information on the web site is not included in the monthly magazine. Conversely, much of the information in each month's magazine is not featured on the web site.
"One of the biggest differences between the two is timeliness," Mrs. Alexander said. "On the web site, we can post breaking news and other information whenever it surfaces, allowing people in the industry to keep up with events and developments of interest on a daily basis or even more frequently."
Another key difference, she said, is the volume of information that can be provided on the web site. "The content of a monthly magazine naturally is limited by the number of pages, whereas on the Web, the amount of information that can be offered and stored is virtually limitless," she added.
Functionally, world-grain.com also offers a faster way to search for information. "Because the web content is stored in a database, typing in a few key words will produce a list of specific articles and/or contacts that are relevant to what you're seeking, which eliminates the need to flip physically through back issues of the print edition," Mrs. Alexander said.
World-grain.com also offers a fast way to keep in touch with others in the grain, flour and feed industries worldwide by providing links to relevant association and industry sites, as well as e-mail addresses for thousands of industry suppliers.
"A few mouse clicks can put you in contact with others around the world who share your interests in grain, flour and feed," Mrs. Alexander said. "This feature helps explain what we mean when we call world-grain.com a ‘grain and flour milling community.' "
The magazine has its own advantages. To begin with, it's portable. "You won't be able to surf world-grain.com on an airplane, at least not for the foreseeable future," Mrs. Alexander said.
"The visual quality of the print edition is especially important for the complex illustrations and diagrams frequently accompanying key technical articles. And many people, myself included, find it tiring on the eyes to read an in-depth, lengthy article on a computer screen."
Mr. Cornwell said that besides daily information, the most exciting aspect of the web site is the benefit for site visitors to interact with each other. "World-grain.com will serve as a marketplace, allowing customers to directly communicate with their current and prospective suppliers," he said.
Mrs. Alexander added, "The two most exciting aspects for me are being able to expand the information we offer and deliver it in a timely way and finding a mechanism to develop a truly global grain, flour and feed community.
"The concept behind the site's development was to pull together in one spot the critical information our industries want and need to see. Bringing it together on one relevant site makes it so much easier for readers/viewers because they don't have to spend hours surfing hundreds of sites themselves to pick out key information. We've done that for them."
The community aspect also is important, she said. "World-grain.com provides a meeting place for all who are interested in the subject matter and a vehicle to expand contacts and exchange ideas with colleagues."
The most challenging aspect of planning and initiating the new web site, Mr. Cornwell said, was to create a site that incorporated all the information that Sosland Publishing Co. publishes in its magazines and still make it easy for the visitor to use.
To help you find your way around the site, a 4-page tutorial on how to use the new web site — everything from enabling "cookies" to bookmarking the site — has been inserted in this month's issue of World Grain. Mrs. Alexander, who wrote the tutorial, also helped in the planning and design stages of the web site.
"The navigation, design and technical issues were the most challenging, at least for me," she said. "It's difficult to really know how the site will flow from a navigation standpoint until it's up. At that point, you realize you'd like to make some changes, but the site architecture means not all the changes can be accomplished easily."
From a technical standpoint, getting the databases working smoothly and formatting the information properly was a challenge, Mrs. Alexander said. "An ongoing challenge is to make sure we're delivering what readers and viewers want and need," she added.
Let us know what you think of world-grain.com. We also encourage viewers to participate in the daily quizlet. (This month's question asks, "Do you plan any major capital improvements to your grain or grain processing facility in the next 12 months?") We'll be publishing the results of those queries from time to time.
Finally, we welcome suggestions on what you'd like to see not only on the web site but in the magazine as well. Oh, and don't forget the hyphen.