Writing for the web: a (short) reading list

I’m running a series of ‘Writing for the web’ workshops at the Frontline Club in the coming months, starting on 14 November (others are slated for 6 March and 6 June 2015). As a taster, here are some recent posts I’ve written for Press Gazette, the Guardian and Content Desk on the subject:

  1. How to make journalism work online: Five writing tips (Press Gazette)
  2. What kind of blogger are you? (Guardian)
  3. How to write headlines for the web? (Content Desk)
  4. Online headlines are different, and here’s the proof (Content Desk)
  5. What George Orwell can still teach us about writing and readability (Content Desk)
  6. From BBC to Buzzfeed: lessons in mobile publishing (Guardian)
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Successful Mobile and Tablet Editorial Strategies for Print News Publishers: The Video

I took part in the Press Gazette’s third News on the Move conference yesterday, chairing one of the three debates on the impact of mobile and tablet on publishing and journalism. As before, it was a really stimulating event with lots of smart ideas, thoughts and people — in the audience as well as on the panels.

You can watch the whole thing here.

The debate I chaired – Successful Mobile and Tablet Editorial Strategies for Print News Publishers – starts at around 25′ 12”. The panel featured:

– Alan Hunter, Head of Digital, The Times & Sunday Times

– Subhajit Banerjee, Mobile Editor, Guardian News & Media

– Martin Ashplant, Digital and Social Media Director, City A.M (and former head of digital at Metro.co.uk)

 

Writing for the web: forthcoming Frontline Club workshop

On Friday 14 November I’m running a new workshop at the Frontline Club. During the session I will explain why writing for the web is exactly the same as writing for print — and why it’s completely different; which of the old rules still apply and which new rules you need to understand to prosper online.

Here’s what I plan to cover:

The principles of writing

  • Why writing for the web is exactly the same as print; and why it’s completely different
  • Understanding the audience
  • What Orwell can teach us about language and readability
  • Establishing the right tone of voice
  • Determining length and frequency
  • Five writers who understand the digital form

News and feature writing

  • The inverted Pyramid of news and why it still matters
  • The Five Ws of News
  • Finding a killer angle
  • Reporting vs opinion
  • News vs Features

Blog writing

  • The ‘atomised’ Inverted Pyramid
  • When is a blog not a blog?
  • Five blogging personas
  • Seven blog writing tips

Headlines and social media sells

  • Why headlines and sells matter more on the web
  • Tailoring headlines and sells for the web
  • HEADLINE WRITING EXERCISE
  • Ten headlines that work online, and ten headlines that don’t
  • SEO: An introduction
  • A practical guide to keyword research

 

To find out more and how to book, click here.

 

Why online headlines are different. And 5 other Content Desk articles

I’ve just completed some work for Content Cloud, a new digital marketplace that puts those seeking content (words, photos, graphics etc) with those that make it. Content Cloud has a sister site called Content Desk and as well as helping develop an editorial plan for the site, I contributed a few articles along the way. Here they are, all in one place:

How to write headlines for the web

What George Orwell can still teach us about writing and readability

Online headlines are different. And here’s the proof

David Mitchell and the art of 140 character storytelling

The Content Marketing Strategy checklist

The Streisand Effect and lessons in transparency

 

 

 

 

 

In the course of ‘Politics and the English Language’, Orwell offers not one but three numbered lists. Eat your heart out BuzzFeed

Q. What can George Orwell teach us about language and readability?

A. Quite a lot.

His 1946 essay, ‘Politics and the English Language’ is not to everybody’s taste but as guide to simple and effective writing it’s a great place to start. I’ll be using it in my Writing for the Web workshop at the Frontline Club in November and I’ve written a piece on it for Content Desk.

Among the advice Orwell offers is this:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

1. What am I trying to say?

2. What words will express it?

3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?

4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And in the course of the 5,000+ word article, he produces not one but three numbered lists. Very now.

Read: What George Orwell Can Still Teach Us About Writing And Readability

 

Newsnight’s future, data journalism, and town hall Pravdas

A couple of weeks ago I appeared on the Media Focus podcast hosted by Paul Blanchard. I was on with Suzanne Franks from City University. We talked about:

– Newsnight post-Jeremy Paxman and came up with a list of obvious (and not so obvious) replacements
– Data journalism (with a little Channel 4 FactCheck nostalgia); and
– Local council freesheets

MediaFocus

You can listen to it here (second on the list, as of posting)

 

Web headlines have to work harder than print headlines. Here’s why

Over on the brand new Content Desk site, I’ve written a post on the craft of online headline writing. Underscoring the piece is an argument that web headlines have to work harder than print headlines. Here’s why:

Invariably a print headline, whether in a magazine or a newspaper, will be supported by:

– a standfirst (sometimes known as the sell, intro or kicker)
– an image or photograph
– an image caption
– a pull-quote; and
– the article itself

All of the above help sell the article. If the headline doesn’t pull you in, the image might; if not the image then the standfirst, the image caption, the pull-quote or even the opening few paragraphs of the piece itself.

By contrast, an online headline will often act alone – seen among a list of links on your website, a link on someone else’s site, on Twitter or on a search engine results page. And because it frequently works alone, the headline must do more.

We can argue over the merits of some online headline (link bait, anyone?) but what is more difficult to dispute is this: if a headline gets clicked on, it has succeeded; if it doesn’t, it has failed. That’s web meritocracy in action.

Click here to read ‘How to write headlines for the web‘ in full.