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Writing For The Web (with notes on slides)

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Six things to think about when writing for the web. Written in 2009 so a bit dated now. Intended as discussion points for journalism education classes.

Six things to think about when writing for the web. Written in 2009 so a bit dated now. Intended as discussion points for journalism education classes.

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  • A brief outline of what to think about when writing for the web (a session for journalism students).
  • This presentation gives an overview of six things to think about when writing for the web.
  • First, make it easy to find. Use keywords in your story, headline and ‘abstract’.
  • Keywords are the words people type into a search engine to find what they’re looking for.
  • You might type in the keywords ‘Dunedin World Cup’ to find out whether Dunedin will be hosting any World Cup games.
  • Sure enough, first up in the Google results is an Otago Daily Times story discussing the World Cup rugby matches that Dunedin will host.
  • And you can click through to read the story. That’s one way people find news stories – by typing keywords into a search engine.
  • Another way to find stories is via the news feeds that feature on, say, your Yahoo Xtra homepage….
  • … or Google news page.
  • You might come across a news story on Twitter...
  • ... or Facebook.
  • You can also go directly to a news website’s homepage…
  • … and browse for news there.
  • That’s three ways to find news you want. So how do most people find news stories?
  • Roughly half of the visitors to any given news story come to that story via a search engine. That’s not an exact figure and it varies from site to site and story to story, but it gives a rough idea of how powerful search can be in driving visitors to your website.
  • That’s three ways to find news you want. So how do most people find news stories?
  • Because keywords are so fundamental to how search engines work, and so many people find news stories using search, it makes sense to include keywords in your stories.
  • On the left is the front page of the New York Times announcing the outcome of the 2009 US presidential election. On the right is the same news story carried on nytimes.com. Notice that the web headline includes the words ‘elected’ and ‘president’ – keywords.
  • Which of these headlines is least likely to be clicked on?
  • The headline Horse Sense on Frontiers makes sense here when you have the secondary headline, picture and caption to help. But the headline on its own doesn’t make sense. Headlines on the web need to make sense on their own – to give people a reason to click.
  • Again, this is about giving people a reason to read further. Explaining what the story is about in the first paragraph helps the reader decide whether they want to read on.
  • In addition, on smaller news websites the first paragraph will automatically be picked out…
  • … and used as an ’abstract’ on the homepage. So the first paragraph, or intro, needs to sell the story.
  • That’s not always the case, though. On bigger news sites the intro is sometimes rewritten to fit the homepage.
  • Here, nytimes.com has rewritten the story’s intro to fit a particular space on the homepage.
  • This is about giving the reader more to do than just read the text – and hopefully keep them on your website longer.
  • If you scroll down on the nytimes.com Obama story…
  • … you see that they’ve included a video of Obama’s victory speech, another of John McCain’s concession speech, an interactive map of the US giving voting results for each state, links to related stories….
  • … and links to blogs and readers’ comments on the story. There’s a lot more there for readers to engage with than just the story itself.
  • Reading online is a different experience to reading on paper. It’s helpful to make pages as clear and easy to read as possible.
  • Here, the key elements - headline, byline and date stamp, image/video, text – are all clearly contained within ‘blocks’ of space. There’s plenty of white space used so the page isn’t cluttered. There is a space between each paragraph to make the text easier to read, and a sans-serif typeface is used, which a number of studies have shown to be easier to read online than serif type.
  • Finally, including links to material cited in the story, or that gives more information about the story, can add context, lead readers to other parts of your website, and be a useful service to readers.
  • In the case of the guardian.co.uk story, they’ve added links to other science stories, other World news stories, a podcast on a similar topic and stories about dinosaurs.
  • In the case of the nytimes.com Obama story, they’ve added links to other stories written about the election and the challenges facing the Obama administration.
  • Transcript

    • 1.
      • Writing for the web
        • Brought to you by evolvingnewsroom.co.nz
    • 2. Six things to think about when writing for the web
    • 3.
      • Make it easy to find - use keywords (searchable)
      • Short, specific headline (reason to click)
      • First paragraph tells the story (reason to read)
      • Make it engaging (multimedia, interactive, keep audience longer)
      • Make it easy to scan (quick and easy to read)
      • Include links to related material (context, extra value)
    • 4.
      • 1. Make it easy to find - use keywords
      First, make it easy to find. Use keywords in your story, headline and ‘abstract’.
    • 5.
      • Keywords are the words people type into a search engine to find what they’re looking for.
    • 6. You might type in the keywords ‘Dunedin World Cup’ to find out whether Dunedin will be hosting any World Cup games.
    • 7. Sure enough, first up in the Google results is an Otago Daily Times story discussing the World Cup rugby matches that Dunedin will host.
    • 8. And you can click through to read the story. That’s one way people find news stories – by typing keywords into a search engine.
    • 9. Another way to find stories is via the news feeds that feature on, say, your Yahoo Xtra homepage….
    • 10. … or Google news page.
    • 11. You might come across a news story on Twitter...
    • 12. ... or Facebook.
    • 13. You can also go directly to a news website’s homepage…
    • 14. … and browse for news there.
    • 15.
      • What percentage of traffic to a news story comes via the website’s homepage?
            • 100%
            • 75%
            • 50%
            • 25%
    • 16.
      • What percentage of traffic to a news story comes via the website’s homepage?
            • 100%
            • 75%
            • 50% (give or take)
            • 25%
      Roughly half of the visitors to any given news story come to that story via a search engine. (That’s not an exact figure but it gives an idea of how powerful search can be in driving visitors to your website.)
    • 17.
      • That means search is important for news websites and for journalists.
    • 18.
      • “ It’s about ensuring that your content is found by the millions of people who use search engines as a filter for news (Google News, Yahoo News).
      • “ These people are essentially asking a computer to tell them the news.”
      Shane Richmond, communities editor, telegraph.co.uk
    • 19.
      • “ If you want your story to be read, you’d better make sure the computer knows what you’re writing about.
      • “ To do that you need to ensure your article contains certain keywords.”
      Shane Richmond, communities editor, telegraph.co.uk
    • 20.
      • Make it easy to find - use keywords
          • … in the headline
          • … in the intro/first paragraph/abstract
          • … in the text
    • 21.
      • 2. Short, specific headline
            • Short, specific, tells the story
            • Include keywords
            • Include place names
            • Be wary of puns, metaphors and wordplay
            • Needs to make sense on its own
      Headlines need to make people want to read more - a reason to click
    • 22. On the left is the front page of the New York Times announcing the outcome of the 2009 US presidential election. On the right is the same story on nytimes.com. The web headline includes ‘elected’ and ‘president’ – keywords.
    • 23.
        • Shannon found alive near home
        • Gunfire as Tibet rallies turn violent
        • Teen shot dead – police
        • Horse sense on frontiers
        • Supreme court to rule on right to carry guns
      Which of these headlines is least likely to be clicked on?
    • 24. Horse Sense on Frontiers makes sense here when you have the other headline, picture and caption to help. But on its own doesn’t make sense. Web headlines need to make sense on their own – give people a reason to click.
    • 25.
      • 3. First paragraph (intro/abstract) tells the story
      This is about giving people a reason to read further. Explaining the story in the first paragraph helps the reader decide whether they want to read on.
    • 26. In addition, on smaller news websites the first paragraph will be automatically picked out…
    • 27. … and used as an ’abstract’ on the homepage. So the first paragraph, or intro, needs to sell the story.
    • 28. That’s not always the case, though. On bigger news sites, the intro is sometimes rewritten to fit the homepage.
    • 29. Here, nytimes.com has rewritten the story’s intro to fit a particular space on the homepage.
    • 30.
      • 4. Make it engaging (multimedia, interactive)
      This is about giving the reader more to do than just read the text – and hopefully keeping them on your website longer.
    • 31. If you scroll down on the nytimes.com Obama story…
    • 32. … you see that they’ve included a video of Obama’s victory speech, another of John McCain’s concession speech, an interactive map of the US giving voting results for each state, links to related stories….
    • 33. … and links to blogs and readers’ comments on the story. There’s a lot more there for readers to engage with than just the story itself
    • 34.
      • 5. Make it easy to scan (quick read)
      Reading online is a different experience to reading print. It’s helpful to make pages as clear and easy to read as possible.
    • 35. Clarity is created here, for example, by putting the headline, byline etc in clear areas and using white space to prevent clutter. There is a gap between each paragraph to make the text stand out and a sans-serif typeface is used, which some studies have shown to be easier to read online than serif type.
    • 36.
      • 6. Include links to related material
      Including links to material cited in the story and to contextual information can be a useful service to readers… and lead them to other parts of your website.
    • 37. In this guardian.co.uk story they’ve added links to other science stories, other World news stories, a podcast on a similar topic and stories about dinosaurs.
    • 38. In the nytimes.com Obama story they’ve added links to other stories written about the election and the challenges facing the Obama administration.
    • 39.
      • Make it easy to find - use keywords (searchable)
      • Short, specific headline (reason to click)
      • First paragraph tells the story (reason to read)
      • Make it engaging (multimedia, interactive, keep audience longer)
      • Make it easy to scan (quick and easy to read)
      • Include links to related material (context, extra value)
      There you have it: six things to think about when writing for the web
    • 40.
        • The End
        • Brought to you by evolvingnewsroom.co.nz

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