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SARA QUINN / THE POYNTER INSTITUTE FOR MEDIA STUDIES
The importance of
writing in the digital age
Writingisthecommon
denominatorinmedia.
Whatsortofwritingisneededfor:
Whatsortofwritingisneededfor:
socialmedia?
Whatsortofwritingisneededfor:
socialmedia?
anewspaper?
Whatsortofwritingisneededfor:
socialmedia?
anewspaper?
aTVnewsreport?
Whatsortofwritingisneededfor:
socialmedia?
anewspaper?
aTVnewsreport?
tabletoramobilephone?
How do you read?
How do you read?
a novel?
How do you read?
a novel?
a breaking news story?
How do you read?
a novel?
a breaking news story?
about buying a new camera?
How do you read?
a novel?
a breaking news story?
about buying a new camera?
about medical symptoms for child?
How do you read?
a novel?
a breaking news story?
about buying a new camera?
about medical symptoms for child?
about the best weekend getaway?
Instapaper.com
Instapaper.com
Longform.org
Instapaper.com
Longform.org
Longreads.com
http://plympton.com/
98%
80%
71%
66%
62%73%
65%
56%
50%
52%
75%
66%
55%
49%
In our study, more text was read online,
regardless of length.
1 THRU 4
INCHES
5 THRU 7
INCHES
8 THRU 11
INCHES
12 THRU 18
INCHES
19 OR MORE
INCHES
Online
Tabloid
Broadsheet
Story length:
67%
Averagepercentofstoryread
Doesthismeanthat
allonlinestories
shouldbelong?
Nope.
Tobepractical,itreallydepends
onthedeviceandthesituation.
Whatdopeoplewant?
Howmuchtimedotheyhave?
Wheredotheywantit?
Abrandnewobservation
whilestudyinghowpeople
readoniPadsandtablets:
Anoverallaverageofaminuteandahalf
(98.3seconds)wasspentonthefirststory
apersonselectedtoread.
THE BEHAVIORS:
Anoverallaverageofaminuteandahalf
(98.3seconds)wasspentonthefirststory
apersonselectedtoread.
Ofthepeoplewhodidnotfinishreadingastory,
theyreadforanaverageof78.3seconds
beforeleavingthestoryentirely.
THE BEHAVIORS:
Anoverallaverageofaminuteandahalf
(98.3seconds)wasspentonthefirststory
apersonselectedtoread.
Ofthepeoplewhodidnotfinishreadingastory,
theyreadforanaverageof78.3seconds
beforeleavingthestoryentirely.
We’vebeencallingthisthe“bailoutpoint.”
THE BEHAVIORS:
Anditmightbeagoodbenchmark
forestablishinga“goldcoin”tokeep
thereaderengagedabouthalfway
throughalongstory.
THE BEHAVIORS:
Thiscouldbeasimplepulloutquotefrom
someonewhohasyettoappearinthestory.
THE BEHAVIORS:
Thiscouldbeasimplepulloutquotefrom
someonewhohasyettoappearinthestory.
Or,aninformativevisualelementthatkeeps
thereaderinterested.
THE BEHAVIORS:
Thiscouldbeasimplepulloutquotefrom
someonewhohasyettoappearinthestory.
Or,aninformativevisualelementthatkeeps
thereaderinterested.
Oraquicksummary
ofkeypointstohelpthe
readerfeelsatisfiedwith
whatthey’velearned.
THE BEHAVIORS:
Howdoyouread
whenyouaresearching?
Scanningreadersaresearchingthepage,
ratherthanreadingwordforword.
Whentheyarelookingforinformation,they
readsubheadsandthefirstwordsofparagraphs.
Somemightcallthisinformationforaging.
OntheWeb,wehuntforfacts.
Whenpeoplearelookingforinformation,they
readsubheadsandthefirstwordsofparagraphs.
Therearetimeswhenyou
mightwanttokeepthings
shortandsweet.
Ourbuddy,RoyPeterClark
arguesthatanystorycanbe
toldwellinjust…
Ourbuddy,RoyPeterClark
arguesthatanystorycanbe
toldwellinjust…
800words
Afewtipsforwriting:
Neverburythelead.
You can’t usually afford to bury the lead
because if you do, few readers will get to it.
Don’tpileon.
In an effort to seem as current as possible with
breaking news, sites will often put the latest
development in a story at the top — no matter
how incremental the development.
Writetightandlively.
Write actively, not passively.
Writetightandlively.
Good broadcast writing uses primarily tight,
simple declarative sentences and sticks to
one idea per sentence.
Writetightandlively.
Good broadcast writing uses primarily tight,
simple declarative sentences and sticks to
one idea per sentence.
It avoids the longer clauses of print writing.
Writetightandlively.
Good broadcast writing uses primarily tight,
simple declarative sentences and sticks to
one idea per sentence.
It avoids the longer clauses of print writing.
You’re writing for the ear. How can you
help the listener to see what you’re saying?
Writetightandlively.
Writing for the web, tablet and mobile should
be a cross between broadcast and print
-- tighter and punchier than print
-- more literate and detailed than broadcast writing
Putthepowerattheend.
This is a broadcast tip. It’s also magical for print.
Putthepowerattheend.
This is a broadcast tip. It’s also magical for print.
Powerful stories have powerful sentences.
Putthepowerattheend.
This is a broadcast tip. It’s also magical for print.
Powerful stories have powerful sentences.
Identify the most important or surprising part
of every sentence and order the information
accordingly.
SEO
Searchengineoptimization
Writesearchableheadlines.
Writesearchableheadlines.
Punny headlines need context.
Your head will likely be read on a mobile phone, too.
Your audience is global.
Doesthisworkfordigital?
Doesthiswork?
Writesearchableheadlines.
Most people don’t go to your homepage to
find what they want to read, they use RSS feeds, etc.
Writesearchableheadlines.
Most people don’t go to your homepage to
find what they want to read, they use RSS feeds, etc.
Be realistic about what people will search for.
Writesearchableheadlines.
Most people don’t go to your homepage to
find what they want to read, they use RSS feeds, etc.
Be realistic about what people will search for.
Use unique, proper nouns: places, people, things.
Writesearchableheadlines.
The first one to four words are the most important.
Writesearchableheadlines.
The first one to four words are the most important.
Be clear and concise. You have just a few seconds.
Bestraightforward.
When people click on something that’s not
worth it, they lose trust in you as a source and
are less likely to come back and click on things
in the future.
Writetheinvisibletext.
About 10 percent of text is read only by machines.
It’s called metadata, and it’s incredibly important.
Writetheinvisibletext.
Use the words that your audience will look for most.
Use free keyword help services like Google.
https://adwords.google.com/o/Targeting/Explorer?__c=1000000000&__u=1000000000&ideaRequestType=KEYWORD_IDEAS
Here’swhatyouneedto
writeformostpages:
Don’tfearthelink.
Linking back to your own work
is crucial to SEO.
Don’tfearthelink.
Studies suggest that links to supporting information
improve the credibility of your content.
People go to sites that do a good job of compiling
click-worthy links.
• Connectyouraudiencewitheverythingyou
havepublishedpreviouslyaboutatopic
Friday, January 27, 2012
• Connectyouraudiencewitheverythingyou
havepublishedpreviouslyaboutatopic
Friday, January 27, 2012
• Connectyouraudiencewitheverythingyou
havepublishedpreviouslyaboutatopic
Friday, January 27, 2012
• Connectyouraudiencewitheverythingyou
havepublishedpreviouslyaboutatopic
Friday, January 27, 2012
• Connectyouraudiencewitheverythingyou
havepublishedpreviouslyaboutatopic
Friday, January 27, 2012
Don’tfearthelink.
Don’t worry about writing: “for more information,
here’s a link.” The visual cue will be enough.
Remember Fitz’s Law.
Helppeopleskimanddive.
Boldfaced or highlighted words grab the eye.
Helppeopleskimanddive.
Highlight about three times as many words online as
you would in a print article.
Bullets and lists draw attention to important points.
Use subheads to keep people reading.
Makethemostofconversation.
Makethemostofconversation.
When people make it to the end of your story,
give them someplace relevant to go.
Don’t make them scroll all the way back to the top.
Let them respond.
Talk about a story.
Share a story.
Recommend a story.
Give readers
a way to
participate.
Takecareofyourbaby.
Update your stories with new developments, links,
supporting data.
When it comes to the digital world,
your work is a living thing.
“Always get
the name
of the dog.”
Advice from Roy Peter Clark,
Poynter vice president and senior scholar:
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Dig for the
concrete and
specific, details
that appeal to
the senses.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
“I remember a police story in the St. Pete Times.
It was an oppressively hot, humid Florida day, and things
started to go badly for a family who lived in town.
“First the air-conditioner broke down, making it
unbearably sticky for the husband, wife, and mother-in-law.
The mother-in-law’s irritation increased when the TV went
on the blink.”
Saturday, March 22, 2014
“The reporter didn’t tell me, but I wanted to know …
what was the woman watching at the time? Was it Jeopardy?
Wheel of Fortune? Maybe One Life to Live?
“The older woman complained to her son-in-law that the TV
wasn’t working. So the son-in-law did what any Florida man
would do under such circumstances: He shot out the screen
of the television set with a handgun.”
Saturday, March 22, 2014
“What followed was a stand-off with police and the man’s
eventual surrender.
“The reporter, does tell us, bless her, that the man’s foul mood
and subsequent violence were influenced by the fact that
he drank 24 cans of beer that day. Black Label beer.
“Not Heineken or Budweiser or Coors. But Black Label.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
“What followed was a stand-off with police and the man’s
eventual surrender.
“The reporter, does tell us, bless her, that the man’s foul mood
and subsequent violence were influenced by the fact that
he drank 24 cans of beer that day. Black Label beer.
“Not Heineken or Budweiser or Coors. But Black Label.
“No wonder he shot out the television.”
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Roy Peter Clark
Poynter Vice President
“Always get
the name
of the dog.”
(Or, the beer.)
Saturday, March 22, 2014

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