What is it that makes a digital news story so different from its print cousin?
What’s different about writing for online?
Successful digital writing needs some serious skills behind it. It is not just about putting what is in print on the web and leaving it at that. People retain less information when reading something online (compared to print), and they’re also more likely to scan the content quickly rather than slowly digest it as with print.
From front-loading your information, to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), choosing the right pictures, or using web analytics, there is so much to consider – and master – when writing a digital news story.
How to write a digital article
Make the story bite-sized and digestible
When every word (and click) counts, writing shorter, sharper stories for mobile news takes focus and a new set of skills for journalists. Stories need to be stripped back and exciting headlines must immediately peak the interest of readers. It’s crowded out there, and we are now all competing for the shortest of attention spans.
In a generation of ‘pick up, put down, move on’, the first sentence is the hardest working one in the whole story. Articles cannot stretch into the thousands of words. There is only around 500 words available to share the news, before concentration wanes and we look elsewhere for the next big story.
Review the analytics
What digital journalism offers above and beyond other avenues, is the opportunity to engage with their audiences on multiple platforms. From mobile, to tablet, and social media, the global population can turn anywhere for the latest updates.
To really understand what’s going on, and what is working, then in steps analytics. Digital journalism can’t work without it.
If good analytics can tell you how many clicks each article has received, who has visited the site, what pages they have viewed, and who has shared and engaged with the articles, then you will be better informed to produce the content they want.
Optimise your digital story
As with all things online, SEO lurks behind the scenes. We don’t need to preach about the need to use key search words in your content for higher search engine rankings, but when it comes to bringing your news to the online world, this is even more important.
Whilst tailoring your content to make it searchable is important, remember this is still journalism so don’t lose the essence of the story in the quest for key search terms. Just tone down the excitable headlines and place the strongest keywords at the start. Let the content that follows do the work.
Creating a good searchable headline could mean that the story will be high ranking for months or even years – meaning more visitors.
It’s quality, not quantity
As we mentioned above, when it comes to digital journalism, the information needs to be bite-sized. And that goes for video as well as written content.
Even this visual journalism needs to change with the times. Most people discover this type of news via social media, shared online, so short and straight to the point needs to come across on video too.
When space and time are at a premium, it about the quality of the information, not the quantity that will get you noticed. Make it easy to view, and even easier to share.
Cut through the noise on multiple platforms
Whilst the prominence of social media as a news source is, at its foundation, a good one, sometimes the twitter and facebook rumour mill can lead many astray. Breeding fake news has damaged the reputation of digital journalism before it has really started. The time has come to take control.
Consistent and validated news across all platforms is a must. Don’t let good journalism fly out the window just because it is now online. Build a following who trusts the news coming from you and make it simple for them to share it via social media.
Be both relevant and responsible, and be a leader within the digital revolution.
It’s not a phenomenon, digital journalism is here to stay (and probably take over!), so get wise to it now.
As the calibre of media leaders gathering in New York at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit shows, it could be the difference between survival or becoming yesterday’s fish and chip wrapping.