Tuesday, March 3, 2009...3:30 pm

Seven steps to switch from print to web journalism

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A challenge from Twitter

Just up on the online journalism Twitter feed from Kari Rippetoe

What advice would you give a print journalism vet to transition into web content editing? Pls twt your advice & feel free to blog about it.

It’s an interesting question, and one I’m pretty much in the middle of, so OK Kari – I will. 

  1. Start a blog. Do it regularly (ie every day if you can). This is the hardest thing, as it’s like keeping a diary. But if you manage it, it’s fantastic discipline. 
    Don’t fall into the trap of writing long op-ed think pieces. Post quickly and succinctly, with lots of links to other things.
    Add pictures and video. Respond to other bloggers and the news. Remember it’s a conversation, at least in theory. 
  2. Understand web stats – web analytics are crucial now, for journos as well. Your blog is helpful for this. Join Technorati and BlogCatalog. Marvel at how far you are down the rankings. Work to boost your profile.
  3. Chunk it. Break down your writing into brief chunks. Short sentences. Little paragraphs. I’d be doing this more here, but I’m trying to figure out how to make the list work with line breaks. Gah.
  4. Did I mention links? Link out and try to get people to link in. Always think about adding value for readers and reaching out to other web content producers. It’s probably the single biggest difference between print and online. 
  5. Learn about SEO. Search engine optimisation is the bees knees when it comes to web content, so learn it.
    Having a blog will be helpful, as you can play around with keywords and see how your traffic fluctuates.
    SEO is simple in concept (just Google it), the trick is in execution. But if you can blather about it convincingly, you’ll sound more like an online journalist. [UPDATE: don’t make this mistake though. Make sure your SEO is actually relevant to your intended audience].
  6. Host your blog yourself. It might be worth buying hosting space (about £50 a year) and uploading the WordPress software instead of using the free service at WordPress.com. That way you’ll learn something of the back-end of web management. “But I’m a journalist, not a web developer!” you cry. Yes – but increasingly you will have to sort out this stuff yourself, especially if you are freelance. 
  7. Learn about web audio and video. Make videos and upload them to the web using a host such as Youtube or Vimeo.
    Learn to edit video – FinalCut is great if you can get it, but something simple such as iMovie or Movie Maker is fine for the principles.
    Create podcasts using simple software such as Audacity. Then figure out how to post them on your blog.
    It doesn’t matter what about – your hobbies or interests are fine. But experience in both the creative and technical side of web audio and video is very valuable, and quite rare for now (as I found out when I was asked to teach it at Solent University). 

When you’ve done all this, you can confidently go to a job interview and say “web journalism? Yes – I do that already.”

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