Clear, active and searchable words: these are the key components of a piece of online journalism.
In his lecture, Glyn Mottershead explained how we must get to grips with the way people read online. Most tend to scan rather than read on the web, and we do so 25% slower. Our writing must be sharp and concise, or else we risk losing the reader a few paragraphs in.
While online journalism requires much the same skill-set as print – concise writing, good grammar, and accuracy – it also demands an understanding of search engine optimisation. We must “plan for the machine, write for the human.” Headlines must cater for the searcher, and key words that summarise the story are crucial. A delayed drop or a witty headline won’t work, because your piece won’t appear in search results.
As journalists we must recognise nothing is in isolation. We need to consider how text, pictures and headlines fit together. How does the page look? Can the reader search for the article? Online journalism requires clarity and accessibility, and we must make reading as easy as possible for our audience. “The old way of online is gone,” said Mottershead. “Punning headlines, beloved of the tabloid and trainee journalists, are not searchable. They simply won’t work.”
It is clear that in order to hook an online audience readers must be able to find our work quickly, scan with ease, and the page must be visually attractive. Online journalism requires a level of accessibility above that of print. Good writing, while vital, is no longer enough.