How Magazine Writers Can Adapt to Writing on the Internet
Magazine writers are some of the most talented people I have had the pleasure of working with. However, most find it hard adapting to writing on the internet. Many eventually do succeed and find that they enjoy the new medium; some others never really get the hang of it, while still others just accept the reality and plod through.
Whatever a writer’s particular inclination, here are some points that can help:
Cut up the text: On the internet, people tend to scan more than they read. They will avoid large blocks of text. Making paragraphs smaller and adding frequent sub-heads can help the reader digest material with more ease, at a faster pace and with better comprehension. Magazine writers need to alter their style for the new medium.
Understand entry points: While most magazine writers understand entry points in print, (i.e. charts and sidebars), the concept takes on a whole new meaning in Digital Media. While a magazine is generally read from front to back, and the cover is always seen before the content, the internet is in 3D. The audience can come from any direction or context.
Often, less than half of the audience ever goes to the home page. People might get to your article through search engines, links from other sites, etc. The “landing page” could be anywhere, so every page is a potential entry point.
Understand the important relationships that your writing creates: While, a magazine article is a closed system, an internet document has relationships to other documents both locally and globally. An article can be much more important for what it leads the reader to than for what it actually says. There are a variety of ways you can take advantage of these new possibilities:
– Link to reference sources: On the internet, you can share your research as well as your ideas with your reader. Your most loyal readers will appreciate your thoughts even more if you give them some insight into how you arrived at them.
– Create Content Clusters: By building a series of related content and reference resources you can link them to your article. This will enable you to weave different aspects and thoughts on a subject into a single body of work (as an ancillary benefit, this also helps search engines find what you write).
– Write shorter articles: Even a very short article can be useful and engaging if it leads interested readers to other valuable content. The typical five page feature doesn’t do well on the internet (people usually print them).
Treat links like they were ads: Marketers love to ad links to the page. They drive traffic around the site and increase page views. However, links are like ads – they can liven up the page if kept to a reasonable level, but too many defeat the purpose of a user coming to the page. Links shouldn’t overwhelm the content.
Make sure that every link has a reason to be there. Also, try to make the links relevant to the article by effectively using tags and other metadata. Again, think about relationships between information. That’s what the web is about.
Watch your metrics: In Print media, journalists are supposed to concentrate on writing, with very little access to audience research. There are periodic ratings for the product as a whole, some letters from readers and the occasional qualitative focus group, but that’s about it.
Online readers give you instant feedback and you can’t afford to ignore it. You don’t have to become a statistician overnight, but you will have to master some basics so that you can understand what your audience is trying to tell you.
Get comfortable with interactivity: A few years ago, my wife and I found a poor, sick, two-week old puppy in Tbilisi, Georgia. We fell in love with him, brought him home and treat him as part of the family. We even talk to him! It’s great having him around, but I‘m not sure how I would feel if one day he talked back…
On the internet, the dogs talk back (and some of them bite!). Many magazine writers aren’t used to being so accessible to their audience. Some writers appreciate the feedback, but others find it jarring and hurtful. In either case, interactivity is here to stay so this is something that you’re just going to have to get used to.
I hope this has been helpful. Good luck!