The main differences that I have noticed between traditional printed context and online context is…
The layout is different, printed context follows this structure;
Head (or Title)
* Sub Heading or Cross Heading every 300-400 words
* Page length – 1200 – 1600 words (broadsheet)
* Page length – 750 – 1000 words (magazine)
Online context follows this structure;
Head (or Title)
* Page lengths – 250 – 750 words HALF the word count or less of print
* Sub Heading or Cross Headings are more frequent
* Multimedia content breaks up text
The article structure that both traditional print and online content is called the ‘inverted pyramid’. Here is an example.
Most Newsworthy Information,
Who, What, Where, When, Why, How?
Other General Information & Background Information
Also newspapers are often read folded in two. Because of this editors would place big stories at the top of the page “above the fold”. The same terminology is used in digital journalism.
However, online writing styles use concise simple language and avoid ‘marketing’ jargon. Also shorter sentences are used so it sounds more conversational and stay on the readers level. In addition to this headings are made more descriptive and simple to draw the readers attention.
When it comes to the publishing process sub-editors have to read an article before it is released to the public. This is called ‘subbing’ and it is said that a good sub-editor reads a story FIVE times.
Some good websites to help guide sub-editors when processing text is Jounalism.co.uk. The website provides one-day online sub-editing course aimed at anyone who has to edit copy for a living and who wants to adapt to the brave new online world. It also offers practical guidance on optimising content for the web in a people and search-engine friendly way.
This one-day intensive course will cover:
- Adapting and marketing the skills you already have
- Building confidence in handling web stories
- The principal differences between subbing for print and subbing for websites
- Content management systems (CMS), and how they work (although please note we will not be teaching any particular program as software will vary between workplaces)
- Search engine optimisation techniques (SEO) – how to attract traffic and make sure readers find your stories easily
- Best practice for hyperlinking
- How to tag your story and enter other metadata
- How to write web-friendly headlines – writing heads for the web requires different skills and different thinking to writing for print
- Creating a story as part of a well-presented online package
- The legal pitfalls to avoid – brush up on your media law for a digital age
I chose to reference this website because I feel that it not only helps sub-editors already in the industry, but gives aspiring sub-editors an idea of what it takes to become one and how easy it is to get experience online.
“People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. In research on how people read websites we found that 79% of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16% read word-by-word.”
Jakob Nielsen – Nielsen Norman Group – http://www.nngroup.com/
Jakob Nielson meant by this quote that web users scan rather than read, so therefore writers need to;
Make the headline and strap informative rather than clever
- Use shorter paragraphs (one idea per paragraph)
- Break up the copy with shorter, frequent and informative cross headers
- Use block quotes (from a source in the middle of a copy) and callouts (Containing a juicy snippet)
- Use lists
- Use multimedia to tell the story