Internet Writing—has it changed the Face of Journalism?

The online free encyclopedia Wikipedia defines a journalist as one who “collects and disseminates information about current events, people, trends, and issues. His or her work is acknowledged as journalism.”

Just the other day, I received a letter from one of my Internet writers. I’ve trained this woman since about 2008 (and it’s been a tough go).

Is she a bad writer? Well, no not at all—but she is a bad writer for Internet writing purposes. She is a professionally trained journalist with a degree in journalism from a well-known college.

You would think that was enough right? Well, not really. I actually find her writing to be engaging at times, but for the purposes of article marketing without a strong editor, I highly doubt that anyone would click on the link if they could even find it.

The Top 5 Problems with Non-Trained Internet Writers

1. Headlines that Aren’t Engaging

Without a good headline, you might as well not write the article. Headlines have to grab the reader and make them click through. In this sense, it really isn’t much different from direct mail or copy writing.

2. Subkeywords that Don’t Make Sense

Subkeywords are sometimes referred to asor even tags. What they are is a list of words that have been included in your article pertaining to the subject of your article.

Let’s say that you have a topic about adoption in North Carolina, for instance. You need to include words that people might put into the search engine to find out about “adoption in North Carolina”. Other words that people might search for are “adoption in Asheville” or “adoption papers North Carolina” or “adoption age”. They probably aren’t looking for words such as “baby” or “parents”.

3. Lack of Scannability

I don’t even think scannability was a word until people started writing on the Internet, honestly. The thing about online readers is this: the first thing they do is scroll down the screen to see if they want to read it. If it is just one giant block of text, you probably just lost your chance.

The average internet reader is evaluated at an 8th grade reading level, while journalists are trained to write for a more affluent crowd of newspaper and magazine readers. Long paragraphs without quotes, bullets, subheaders, and short paragraphs are more of a web thing.

4. Paragraphs that Look Like a Novel on a Computer Screen

If you are writing online, you need to keep your text to about 5 or 6 lines.

5. Lack of a Marketing Background of Some Sort

Unfortunately, many of the articles that you will be writing online are informative pieces that will get a click through to a service or product. It’s a lot harder to find jobs like those that you might find in a newspaper with an objective viewpoint. They are often written with strings attached in order to make a profit.

The Web-Savvy Journalist

The term journalist has always carried with it an aura of authority and clout.  Nowadays, there is a new kind of journalist emerging in this arena. It’s the era of the Web-Savvy Journalist. A journalist that writes for the Web is more than just a journalist if they want to get noticed.

In my next post, we’ll take a closer look at internet marketing, Social Media, and other avenues such as blogs written by amateur writers. Some of these writers are getting more attention than professional writers. What does this mean to the world of journalism or the English language for that matter?

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Erin Walsh