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Writing for the web


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This is the presentation I gave on writing for the web at Drake University in March 2010.

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Writing for the web

  1. 1. WRITING FOR THE WEB by Chris Snider
  2. 2. Chris Snider • Digital editor at Des Moines Register • Adjunct professor of journalism at Drake •
  4. 4. The way that people use the internet and, in particular, search engines to find and consume content is very different to the way that they find it in print publications.
  5. 5. How people read online They don’t read every word They scan (quickly), looking for information they want If they don’t find it fast, they click on something else They jump from site to site (now that we have faster internet connections) They avoid ads (and anything that looks like an ad) They read across the top, then down, then across, then down, like an F... They don’t scroll
  6. 6. The overwhelming odds are that people will not read your entire post – or even close to it. Make sure they will get something valuable, even if they only read one or two paragraphs.
  7. 7. HOW DO WE KNOW? Eyetrack research.
  8. 8. Eyetrack research:
  9. 9. Newspaper home pages
  10. 10. Battle of the sexes: Women are drawn to faces.
  11. 11. What gets read online Short paragraphs Bulleted lists Occasional use of bold to prevent skimming Short sentence fragments Explanatory subheads No pun headlines
  12. 12. Which of these encourage you to read longer?
  13. 13. The web is very literal. No metaphors. No puns. Use plain english.
  14. 14. Print headlines don’t work online
  15. 15. Put your most important information at the top. Avoid feature lead-ins.
  16. 16. Use links. Reader expect you to help them find more valuable info. Links also offer good will (more on that later).
  17. 17. Don’t create things that look like ads. People try to avoid ads online.
  18. 18. Blame the monkey for ruining online advertising
  19. 19. Take advantage of online’s capabilities: A writer/publisher has many more tools available online than in print. So mix things up.
  20. 20. Alternative forms of stories
  21. 21. List
  22. 22. Photo
  23. 23. Video
  24. 24. Thought post
  25. 25. Interview
  26. 26. Live chat
  27. 27. Live video
  28. 28. Slideshow
  29. 29. Best-of post
  30. 30. Chris Brogan’s most-linked-to posts
  31. 31. Set up a series of posts (even if you don’t call it a series). Use new posts in the series to link to older posts in the series. This helps reinforce the original content.
  32. 32. Link to related content. This benefits new readers and RSS/e-mail readers:
  33. 33. Comment back to people who leave comments. This builds community and keeps people coming back. It also extends the life of your post.
  34. 34. Make sure your content is easily sharable.
  35. 35. Promote subscribing via RSS and via e-mail. Use Feedburner if that’s not set up.
  36. 36. Comment on other blogs
  37. 37. What leads to comments Make a claim – Surely there is someone out there who feels different.
  38. 38. What leads to comments Express an opinion – It gives people something to react to.
  39. 39. What leads to comments Invite a response – the perfect invitation for people to disagree and discuss.
  40. 40. Know your metrics. What stories are popular? What isn’t popular? When do your readers come to your site? How do they get to your site (twitter, google, etc.)?