Knight Center
Knight Center


How to write for digital media: Techniques for web writing

Online news consumption is becoming important around the world as audiences and investments grow exponentially. In the United States, digital media advertising revenue is increasing while traditional media revenues are decreasing, and in Brazil, online advertising revenue is expected to surpass print in 2015. However, not all professionals that work in the news industry are prepared to modify their print style of writing to a screen style, nor do they take into account the fact that online reading is different.

In the digital world, written information must take into account certain techniques and Webwriting concepts. As explained by Bruno Rodrigues, a consultant in digital information and communication and author of the books “Webwriting” and “Padrões Brasil e-Gov: Cartilha de Redação Web,” the goal of online writing is to say more with less.

The method for some journalists, meanwhile, is to give up one's own style of writing. "In webwriting, 'style' is something that one does not worry about until after creating information that attends to all the necessary requirements for its visualization and consumption,” said Rodrigues, during an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

According to Rodrigues, there are four basic principles for online writing:

- Persuasion: Create interest mechanisms for the information that is being produced, and think far beyond "well written," which is a condition sine qua non;

- Objectivity: Give users the aspects of information that readers want, without "dismissing" unnecessary details;

- Visibility: Try to work with different "layers" in the website, giving out information little by little, but not creating a structure that is too deep.;

- Navigability: Use the information as a directional resource in a website, helping the user to navigate through data and produce knowledge.

There are several articles that provide basic information on how to apply webwriting techniques. Some websites and organizations offer workshops that help achieve better online writing, such as the Poynter Institute, the British Writingfortheweb, and the HTML Writers Guild. For those starting up, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) offers seminars on "how to improve online writing in 30 minutes."

Webinars are also available. The British website eCPD Webinars offers a webinar on online writing and translation, that will take place on April 11, 2012. The StateImpact offers an online seminar regarding Webwriting for radio broadcasters.

In addition to this, the Online Library at the Knight Center contains many articles regarding web-journalism and webwriting, which can be downloaded for free.

When writing online, it is also necessary to pay attention to SEO techniques (Search Engine Optimization) so your post can be found easily. There are a few simple steps for doing this, such as repeating key words, creating hyperlinks that contain relevant words, and making titles that are to the point.

Also, Google has an online handbook on SEO techniques that covers everything from basic measures in the structure of writing to the correct way of promoting websites. Tutorials on SEO techniques are also available, such as the one offered for free at SEO Master.

Regarding how the algorithms of seach engines influence digital content, Rodrigues said: “The [SEO] dictates 100 percent of the production of content and this is a journey with no return. A web user only wants and demands to find content."


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