Why Even the Best Journalists Need Help Writing Digital Content

Posted on May 29, 2014
By Jeanne

Using the written word is not that "easy". Even seeing first hand what my twelve year old is learning and working toward in Language Arts reminds me of the journey and effort it takes to write and communicate well. And the "rules of the road" when it comes to the English language go back to Latin. All our thinking around the best way to write and communicate developed over hundreds and hundreds of years.

The internet started becoming another outlet for written communication in the mid 90's and the impact it had and is still having on the written form of communication (amongst many others) is profound. This "new" medium has literally changed how we think about what we write and how we write it. It has given us countless choices and options and changed the face of journalism.

By definition journalism is a literary style that aims to provide a service to the public by providing new information and analysis. And journalistic mediums range from print and broadcast to the web and mobile platforms.

With the growth of technology there are now all sorts of journalists from casual and professional bloggers to what we traditionally consider professional journalists. Many of these journalists have been highly trained in written communication and/or attended journalism schools.

If you are making a living by writing, you clearly know "how" to write. And over time you "know" your audience. Plus many people are using accessible data like google analytics or social graph info to get to know their audiences better.

And I know that many writers now go even further to understand who's reading what they are writing. And digital publishers now leverage technology and tools that help them know what topics are trending and are more likely to drive readership and sharing. Like most writers your gut and experience combined (with some other available tools) help guide what you write and how you write.

And whether you are a casual blogger or a professional journalist, a big frustration is that no matter how much time, effort, thought and consideration you put into each article there's no guaranteed means to insure people will read it. And even take some kind of action after reading it such as commenting, sharing it, reading more content from you or even just hitting the "Like" button.

There was an article in Slate "You Won't Finish This Article" that says that way less than 50% of the people who even click on your article ever finish reading it. That is a true "eye opener". It's really hard to get people to click and even harder to keep them reading after they click.

Let's assume that your article is well written AND on a "tried and true" topic that your audience will want to read. So why don't people read it? Frustrating, right? We get it. And after doing 18+ months of research we now know some of the key factors that have a negative impact on people reading and then engaging in some way with your content, no matter how well it's written and how amazing the topic.

Even if you are a highly trained and experienced writer you really do need help to get more people reading and engaging with all your fantastic content. There are new "rules" that are specific to digital communication (both web and mobile) that have a huge impact on whether or not your article will get seen, read and more.

Elements that matter include title (is it the optimal length, does it have superlatives and how many?) which impacts whether or not someone will click on the article in the first place. And audience match, which is about writing in a way that resonates with your audience and suits the way they like to read and absorb your content (this includes linguistic elements, style and emotion) are some of the key factors to driving more readership. So far we've uncovered about 20 different elements or what we call measures that have a tangible impact.

So here's the point. No matter how great you are at writing. No matter how much training, experience and skill you have, you are now at a distinct disadvantage if you are writing content for digital consumption. The journalists who embrace change and are open minded are adapting to this new reality and leveraging resources available to them. They are the ones who will be the journalistic superstars of the future. So what are you waiting for?!

Tags: audience, Blogs, Content Marketing, digital content, journalism, journalist