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Writing for the digital age: Beyond the Pyramid

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  1. 1. BEYOND THE PYRAMID Writing Styles for the Digital Age
  2. 2. YOUR HOST • Digital Marketing Manager for American Family Insurance • Experienced Blogger, e-marketing/technology columnist, and author • Former publisher of the Business Owner’s Toolkit ( and host of nationally-syndicated radio show of the same name • More 5 years as partner in a $40 million advertising agency
  3. 3. HOW PEOPLE USE THE WEB • Activities of Regular/Occasional users – 91% Research – 80% Getting info about products to buy – 76% Get news – 75% Banking – 56% Make purchases – 36% Listen to music
  4. 4. ONLINE “READERSHIP” Level of interest varies by user and topic: – Scanning (80-85%) • Just the title/headline • Just the Abstract • First Paragraph • Major points – Reading (15-20%) • Minor points • Detailed Interest • Where can I learn more?
  5. 5. MULTILEVEL WRITING • Multilevel Writing caters appropriately to all levels of interest. • The goal is to simultaneously provide a great experience for scanners and readers
  6. 6. MULTILEVEL TIPS • Create Meaningful Subheads • Use Bulleted lists and jump lists • Indent • Use Tables and Charts • One idea per paragraph • Shorter paragraphs • Start with the Conclusion
  7. 7. MULTILEVEL TIPS An article that is unseen can is preferable to an article that is uninteresting. – No News is Good News. Work hard to be avoided by those who don’t want to see you. – Write clear and informative titles – Provide accurate descriptions and keywords for search engines – Don’t try to appeal to everyone
  8. 8. LEVEL I: SCANNING Scanning isn’t an insult, it’s a reality. Web readers rarely read. 80% of the time, they’re just “scanning.” – Write meaningful Titles and Headlines – Write meaningful Abstracts that aren’t recycled leads – Use Subheads to emphasize major points – Use bulleted lists to summarize minor points – Use indents to show transitions from major points to minor points
  9. 9. LEVEL II: READING The act of reading your article on the Web, means they’re already interested. Don’t let them down. – Use an open, natural and uncontrived writing style. – Avoid techno-speak, buzzwords and Jargon – Share Your Experience, Your Opinion, Your Dissenting Argument, Your Perspective and Your Sense of humor. – Make it a Social Experience
  10. 10. WEB WRITING IS SOCIAL • Reading and writing is a social act. • The social aspect is amplified: – Internet content is “opt-in” – Internet content is search driven – Internet content is more interactive (“Click and explore”) – Social and commercial venues are blended. (More gray area, less distinction) • Writing for the Web requires you to consider how the reader will react. • A Social Model for Writing can be the most effective model for writing online
  11. 11. SOCIAL MODEL: NATURAL LAWS • Time and distance are Barriers Your article may serve as the only point of contact between a reader and yourself. • Transferring Knowledge is Inexact Writers seldom write exactly what they mean and readers seldom interpret a writer's words exactly as the writer intended. • Understanding is Influenced by Context. Understanding of an article is based on factors Not only your respective purposes, influences, and understanding of each other, but also the physical, social, cultural, and historical contexts in which reading and writing take place.
  13. 13. SOCIAL MODEL OF WRITING Given the natural laws at work, you should Approach writing with several questions in Mind: • What is Your Purpose? • What Influences You? • What Do Reader's Want? • What Influences Readers? • What Author/Readers Know about each other? • What is the Context?
  14. 14. WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE? • Understanding your purposes can help you in virtually every aspect of writing. • Knowing what you want to accomplish will help: – you select your topic – consider your readers' needs and interests – choose appropriate evidence to support your points. • It will also help you with decisions regarding tone, style, and document design.
  15. 15. WHAT INFLUENCES YOU? • What are your beliefs and values on the topic? • What is your level of knowledge? • What are your requirements? • What are your limitations? • What are your opportunities? – Good resources? – Personal Experience? – First-hand knowledge? • What resources are at your disposal? – Experts – Video/Audio – Charts/Graphs – Illustrations/Photographs
  16. 16. WHAT DO READERS WANT? • Readers are motivated to read by their perceived benefit for doing so • Understanding what your readers want helps you create a great article. • What can readers “walk away with”? • What gives this article longevity?
  17. 17. Consider Keywords • What keywords/phrases are related to the article? • What is the popularity of article-related keywords/phrases? • What is the desired keyword density?
  18. 18. WHAT INFLUENCES READERS? Readers will be influenced by a number of things. – Level of Interest – Knowledge – Desire to be informed/entertained – Values & Beliefs
  19. 19. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE YOUR READER • Journalists tend to underestimate their audience: – Their level of interest – Their level of knowledge – Their ability to understand • A Social Model of Multilevel writing allows you to presume the reverse and provide “opt-out” points for individuals who seek them
  20. 20. WHAT AUTHOR/READERS KNOW of EACH OTHER? • It’s important to accurately represent yourself and your audience. • Are you an observer or an expert? • Are you providing opinion or fact? • Are you writing for people who already know the topic, or for someone without any knowledge? Credibility can be dubious online. It’s important to define the context of messages to ensure they aren’t misinterpreted.
  21. 21. WHAT IS THE CONTEXT? What physical, social and cultural differences can affect your ability to communicate with readers? • The Internet has millions of readers. It’s easy to underestimate the implications of location, society and culture.
  22. 22. WEB WRITING • Great web writing a conversation between an “approachable expert” or “approachable observer” and the reader – It’s Informational – It’s Social – It’s more one-to-one, than one-to-many • Learning to write in a conversational tone isn’t a trick. There is more “unlearning” than learning involved for writers. • You don’t need to dumb-down to readers. Assume intelligence instead of a lack thereof
  23. 23. WEB WRITERS Relevance Influence • Journalist • Ad Copywriter – Newspapers are – Target Market skimmed Awareness – Sections/Organization – Conversational – Individual Stories Tone – “Above the Fold” concept translates – Purpose-Driven well – Context Sensitive – The Head – The Lead – Inverted Pyramid BOTH SKILLS ARE REQUIRED
  24. 24. QUESTIONS?