Upcoming Frontline workshops: Writing for the Web and Mastering Social Media

My first two Frontline Club workshops of 2017 take place in the coming months. Here are the details:

How to Tweet – Mastering Social Media
Friday, 17 March 2017
1. Social Media: Understanding the basics
– What is social media and why it matters
Exercise #1: Defining social media
– Two tales from the newsroom that demonstrate the power of social
– Six ways journalists use social networks
2. Getting to grips with Twitter
– The Twitter Audit
– The Twitter Glossary
Exercise #2: How to Tweet
3. Social media in action
– When to post online: how consumption habits are changing
– Eleven examples of social media in action
– The Audit: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and the rest
Exercise #3: Creating a social media campaign
– How to manage your social media footprint all in one place
4. How to blog
– Blogging basics
– What kind of blogger are you? Introducing three archetypes
– Establishing a tone of voice
– How to get noticed
Exercise #4: Writing a blog post
– Blogging dos and don’ts
… Final thoughts: Eleven social media tips
Book now

Writing for the Web with Jon Bernstein
Friday 21 April 2017
1. The principles of writing
– Why writing for the web is exactly the same as writing for print. And why it’s completely different
– What George Orwell can teach us about language and readability
– EXERCISE #1: Simplifying language
– EXERCISE #2: Decoding the press release
– Understanding online reading habits
– Six more tips for writing online
2. News writing and the fundamentals of storytelling
– The Inverted Pyramid of news. And why it still matters
– The Five Ws (and the H) of news
– How to define an audience
– Establishing length
– Defining tone of voice
– EXERCISE #3: Reworking the press release
3. Blogs, longer reads and structure
– How to create a structure
– How to plan
– How to blog: the ‘atomised’ Inverted Pyramid
– Three blogging archetypes that work
– EXERCISE #4: Writing a blog post
4. Headlines
– Why headlines matter more on the web
– Tailoring headlines for the web
– Newspaper headlines that probably don’t work online
– Headlines that do work online
– EXERCISE #5: Writing a killer online headline
5. SEO: an introduction
– A practical guide to keyword research
. . . Final thoughts
Book now

If the London location is inconvenient or if you are looking for bespoke and/or in-house training, do please contact me directly.


TL;DR: a selection of articles for the Guardian Media & Tech network

Thirteen articles from the last couple of years, starting with the most recent:

Facebook’s dominance in journalism could be bad news for us all
Could it be that the short-term high from socially distributed content – greater reach – inevitably gives way to symptoms of dependency: loss of control and financial damage?

From digital to print: the publishers bucking the online-only trend
The march of technological progress moves in just one direction. From analogue to digital. From standalone to connected. From print to online. That, at least, is the conventional view. The reality is far messier. And far more interesting.

How can publishers inspire trust in an era of distributed media?
Where once publishers used social media as a promotional tool to pull users back to their own websites, now social networks and messaging apps have morphed into content hosts – think Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover, Apple News, LinkedIn Pulse, Google AMP and, even, Twitter Moments.

What is Twitter’s real reach?
Regardless of the stalling active users and top line numbers, perhaps Twitter still matters. Perhaps it still has influence, albeit indirectly.

Cosmo and Lad Bible reach new audiences through social
Nobody owns the audience, Facebook will change the rules of publisher engagement to suit its needs and the benefits of using social platforms controlled by others outweigh the disadvantages.

Current affairs magazines are defying the death of print
As it is with long-form broadcast so it is with current affairs magazines at their best. By taking a longer view and by devoting more time and space to key events, current affairs magazines can help readers marshal their thoughts (shape them, even) and separate the signal from the noise.

From Bloomberg to Quartz: five attempts to tackle our attention deficit
In a world of finite time and apparent infinite choice, how are publishers encouraging readers to stick around? And how, especially, are they persuading them to stay for the longish reads? One answer is to provide visual or text-based cues to indicate how much time readers will need to invest in a particular article. Here are five innovative approaches.

 TLDR: so just how short should your online article be?
In a world of 140 character tweets and five to six inch mobile phone screens, long is bad. Right? Well, maybe.

News UK, the Guardian and Outbrain on the labelling of sponsored content
If the problem is transparency and trust, is the solution better labelling? That was one of the questions a panel on native advertising wrestled with at the Changing Media Summit last week.

BuzzFeed to NME: a publisher’s masterclass in producing online video
Too many videos play as if they have been produced for company bosses. Brevity, focus and the ability to teach viewers something new are key ingredients

What kind of blogger are you?
From the polemicist to the magpie, here are four blogging archetypes worth exploring.

i100 and Quartz prove homepages are increasingly irrelevant
Homepages are a product of journalists who came from print and thought in print terms.

From Google to Buzzfeed: seven moments that shaped digital media
Seven milestones have marked radical change in the digital media in the 20 years since newspapers began publishing online.

Does the short-term high from socially distributed content – greater reach – inevitably gives way to symptoms of dependency: loss of control and financial damage?

My latest piece for the Guardian Media & Tech network is on the changing nature of social channels, the growing dominance of Facebook and the impact of distributed content on creators and publishers of content.

A couple of questions run through the piece. There’s the one above (long, I know) and there’s this one from the beginning of the piece:

Do the benefits of allowing social platforms to host your journalism outweigh the disadvantages? Most publishers, however reluctantly, will say yes and adopt the “we are where we are” argument. Others put a more positive spin on things, maintaining that publishers should go where their audience is, share what advertising revenue is available and trust that they can turn passing interest into loyal (paying) readership.

Continue reading Facebook’s dominance in journalism could be bad news for us all

Swipe and Porter: two products of a counter factual approach to digital

I’ve just interviewed two people behind print publishing ventures that emerged from digital. I was interested in exploring what struck me as examples of digital reverse engineering.

The piece on Swipe – a fortnightly freesheet that promises to feature “the best of the internet in print” – and Porter – the bi-monthly glossy from online retailer Net-a-Porter – is over on the Guardian. This is how it begins:

The march of technological progress moves in just one direction. From analogue to digital. From standalone to connected. From print to online. That, at least, is the conventional view. The reality is far messier. And far more interesting.

During the first dotcom boom, I liked to invoke the counterfactual. What if the physical succeeded the digital? What if the virtual retailer came first, followed by the high street store – how would we have greeted the latter? Surely we would have celebrated our new ability to touch and feel – to say nothing of trying on for size – the clothes we were about to buy.

Carry on reading: From digital to print: the publishers bucking the online-only trend


A social media reader ~ March 2016

Some (mostly recent) pieces on using social media that I’d recommend:


7 powerful social media experiments that grew our traffic | Buffer Social

How The Washington Post works with its foreign correspondents to report via social media | Nieman Lab

Is Your Social Media Content as Popular as You Think? | Content Marketing Institute

How To Get Started With Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) | Search Engine Land

Using open soure social media sources in investigative work | Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting


Facebook now ranks live video higher in the news feed | Buffer Social

How to see who has shared your content on Facebook | Search Engine Land

Facebook announces a WordPress plugin that lets publishers easily create Instant Articles | Nieman Lab


Instagram May Change Your Feed, Personalizing It With an Algorithm | New York Times

How to Tell Powerful Narratives on Instagram | Nieman Storyboard

7 ways news outlets can use Instagram | Journalism.co.uk


Twitter has changed. Get over it | The Drum

In defence of Twitter | Slack Communications

Upcoming Frontline Club Workshops

A quick plug for two workshops I’m running early in the year at the Frontline Club:

How to Tweet – Mastering Social Media with Jon Bernstein
Friday 22 January 2016, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
In the fast-paced evolution of digital journalism, it is essential to get to grips with the social media landscape around you. Pioneering website editor Jon Bernstein will lead a day-long workshop to teach you how to get the most out of your online tools.

From understanding the basics of social media and their applications in journalism, to the fine art of online editing, this workshop is ideal for established and emerging journalists alike. It will also appeal to anyone in a communications role who truly wants to understand the power of social media.

The workshop will cover the following:
1. Social Media: Understanding the basics
2. Getting to grips with Twitter
3. Social media in action
4. How to blog
Book here


Writing for the Web with Jon Bernstein
Friday 12 February 2016, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
With more than 16 years’ experience in digital journalism, pioneering website editor Jon Bernstein will lead a day-long workshop on writing for the web. You will gain an understanding of the principles of writing for the web, how it differs from print, how to establish a successful blogging persona and why the headline must work much harder online.

In this interactive session, attendees will be given plenty of opportunities to hone their craft. The workshop is ideal for new and emerging journalists, established journalists making the transition from print to web and communications professionals seeking to extend the reach and impact of the written word.

The workshop will cover the following:
1. The principles of writing
2. News writing and the fundamentals of storytelling
3. Blogs, longer reads and structure
4. Headlines
5. SEO: an introduction
Book here

Some thoughts on #DigitalJournalism

Several weeks ago Nasser Sahool, agency leader at DAC Group in Toronto, invited me to take part in his podcast series on digital strategy.

The conversation that followed made me think again about the changing role of digital journalism over nearly two decades. Here are a selection of those thoughts – a few fully formed, most partially constructed…

On the skills journalists need in the digital age
“Some of the advice never really changes. Read widely, read well, read good journalism whether it’s the New Yorker or the Financial Times or it’s a brilliantly crafted tabloid newspaper. Learn to deliver lean and concise and effective copy… Then combine this old stuff with a bunch of new skills. So, for example, as as digital journalist you’d need to learn how to open a spreadsheet and understand the data that you are seeing … Then familiarise yourself with the newish tools of the trade – do you know how to put audio together? Do you know how to use video? Do you understand how to use social networks?”

On data journalism
“Data gets to the heart of a truth and if journalism is about getting to the truth data journalism is really important.”

On the new tools of the trade
“I’m not sure all journalists realise how easy [the tools] are to use. I run workshops on social media and what I spend a lot of time doing is getting people over that hump of fear, fear of the technology – ‘I can’t possibly use Twitter because I don’t understand how to use it.’ Well, it doesn’t take very long learn how to use it. And once you understand how to use it – once you understand the lingua franca, the code of Twitter, Facebook or any of these other tools – then you are into the world of communications. It’s then about how you apply the technology not the technology itself.”

On the impact of smartphones
“The medium impacts consumption habits. We see that most obviously with the growth of the internet-enabled smartphone … which has made the internet day and the internet week longer in terms of consumption … If lots of people are consuming our content at 7.30 in the evening via a smartphone what does it say about us as a publisher in terms of what we deliver, when we deliver it, how we resource our staff, how we push this stuff out on to our website but equally through social media.”

On the dangers of infinite online space
“Just because you’ve got infinite space doesn’t mean that your reader has got infinite time. In fact they’ve got less time than they ever had because they are reading more words from more sources than ever before. So some of those old world skills of being concise – writing short and sharp and to the point – absolutely apply still.”

Read more: Episode 18: The Role Of The Digital Strategist In Journalism – A Conversation With Jon Bernstein

Mastering Social Media: a reader ~ September 2015


Journalists on Twitter: Stop shouting, start listening | BBC College of Journalism

Twitter for newsrooms and journalists | Twitter

The Definitive Guide To Using Twitter Cards | Forbes


Journalists with verified Facebook profiles can now use Mentions and Live tools | Journalism.co.uk

Six Facebook changes you should know about | Slack Communications


5 Ways Journalists Use LinkedIn for Research and Reporting | PR Newswire


Instagram Journalism: The New Content Trend Shaking Up the Media World | Contently

How the BBC and Guardian are innovating on Instagram | Journalism.co.uk

19 Seriously Smart Tips To Up Your Instagram Game | Buzzfeed


How the BBC is using WhatsApp to boost engagement | World News Publishing Focus


7 social media monitoring tools you should explore | Slack Communications

How not to tweet – further thoughts on good (and bad) social media | Slack Communications

Writing for the web: a June 2015 reading list

A random selection of articles on the art (or more accurately, the craft) of writing for the web:


Why I blog by Andrew Sullivan | The Atlantic (November 2008)

My life in the blogosphere by Ben Smith | BuzzFeed

Article treatment

In Defense of the Listicle by David Leonhardt | New York Times

How to make journalism work online: five writing tips by me | Press Gazette

Beyond the churn by Sarah Smarsh | Aeon

New Associated Press guidelines: keep it brief by Paul Farhi | Washington Post

Quartz’s Kevin Delaney: Time to kill the 800-word article by Brian Morrissey | Digiday

The allure of the finishable news experience by Sarah Marshall | NiemanLab

The homepage

64 Ways To Think About a News Homepage by Melody Joy Kramer | Medium

The homepage is dead, and the social web has won by Zachary M Seward | Quartz

Homepage as front page is an historical accident by me | Guardian Media Network

Paywalls, format and why we don’t always know what’s going to happen even when the signs are there

For observers of digital media two things stood out in Alan Rusbridger’s valedictory column in Saturday’s Guardian. The first was more obvious, the second more interesting.

1. On paywalls
The outgoing editor compares what he calls the “polar opposites” of the UK newspaper trade – the paywalled Times and the free-to-air Guardian. The Times, he notes, claims a daily audience of 281,000 while the Guardian registers 7 million unique browsers a day.

On an equal accounting basis, we’re losing (or investing) about the same amount of money. You’ll have to come back in 10 or even 20 years time to find out who judged the future best.

While he’s right to say it will take a while for the winning formula to be identified – and it may well be neither of the above – I wonder if The Times accept the phrase “equal accounting basis”.

2. On newspaper formats
Today’s discussions about publishing formats are most likely to involve 6in smartphones and 10in tablets but back in 2005 format meant broadsheet, tabloid or – in the case of the Guardian – the mid-sized Berliner. Why did the Guardian go for the third option when The Times and The Independent went tabloid? Rusbridger says there were “various reasons”. Intriguingly, one of those reasons was:

the amount of classified advertising we still took in print at that point

With the benefit of hindsight, print classifieds were already in terminal decline by 2005 with job boards, Craigslist, eBay and others making deep in-roads. Signs of digital disintermediation were evident everywhere. The chunky Monday Guardian, bulked out by media job ads that made it a default purchase for those us in the industry, was already thinning out.

Should the Guardian have read the signals better a decade ago? Perhaps. Will we continue to miss emerging trends likely to have a similar impact? Probably.