How to Create Content for the Average News-Seeker

The fact that you’re reading this blog post is a good sign. It means you understand the value of being able to consume digital content – and, hopefully, the value of providing it, as well.

Katherine L is a 5-Star writer at WriterAccess

Katherine L is a 5-Star writer at WriterAccess

Almost all companies benefit from a strong online presence, but the news industry has been particularly susceptible to the Internet’s influence – and how it has changed consumers’ demands and expectations.

Whether readers are checking out a designated news outlet or simply browsing on BuzzFeed and similar “catchy” websites, they are constantly searching for something new – a new idea, new information, new insights, new laughs or maybe just a new distraction. They increasingly rely on their favorite news outlets, blogs or other media companies to offer their next “new” through a digital platform. As a result, these companies are now embroiled in a campaign to satiate users’ desire for a constant flow of online information. Many have adopted a “Web-first” mentality and some have gone completely digital.

Here are few suggestions for how to market news content in this fast-paced, digital-driven world.

Keep it short

If people want to get lost amid a thick, winding river of prose, they will pick up a Tolstoy novel. In general, people rely on digital platforms to get information quickly and in small quantities. It is common knowledge readers may only consume the first few paragraphs of an article or post, unless something about it – the topic or style – really grabs them, so offer the best information first.

However, according to a Pew Research Center study on online behavior (analyzed here by Amy Mitchell, Galen Stocking and Katerina Eva Matsa), consumption of long-form articles via mobile phones is experiencing signs of life. Longer articles get roughly the same number of mobile visitors as short-form articles, and readers will engage them twice as long (or about two minutes rather than one minute, which is still not much time). The study also reveals people generally spend less time on a long-form article if they reached it through a Twitter or Facebook link rather than an internal link. This seems to indicate if you want your readers to access, engage with and appreciate longer content, you first must build a relationship that entails them choosing to visit your site. New site visitors may not be willing to spend as much time on lengthy content.

Before we move on, might I add we can all get a little lazy as readers. We want to be informed without expending enormous amounts of time or energy. Your responsibility as content providers is to make sure material presents facts in a colorful way. Cut out the gristle – technical language, convoluted syntax or pedantic prose – and focus on giving people clear, concise and palatable information. [Tweet it]

Keep it engaging

On his blog Journalistics, writer Jeremy Porter points out the right question to ask when considering your digital content development strategy is not who do you need to communicate to, but rather who do you need to communicate with.

The digital world creates a space where news outlets can and should interact with their audiences. No longer are content providers alone setting the tone and direction of the conversation in print publications that are later and separately consumed by readers. Now, the audience is right there, in your virtual face, responding swiftly with their thoughts and opinions, contributing to the narrative of developing stories, sharing, liking and otherwise participating. “Your audiences have all the control today,” Porter writes.

Rather than fighting to maintain the former teacher-student-esque relationship between news outlets and the public by mitigating communication, embrace this new atmosphere and find ways to help your audience keep in step. You benefit from them caring about the content you’re providing – even when that care is manifested as skepticism, distaste or a demand for more information.

Keep it professional

I’m sure everyone experiences the temptation to employ click-bait headlines to pull in readers, but resist the urge if your main goal of marketing news content is to cultivate valuable user interaction and a reputable brand. Readers are getting fed up with click-bait headlines and may avoid certain outlets altogether on principle. Of course you need to entice people on platforms inundated with countless other visuals and links to alternative information competing for their attention, but think first about the long-term reputation you’re establishing.

Likewise, do not disregard accuracy, verification and proper spelling and grammar just because content won’t be branded in print. As The Poynter Institute points out in this article about guidelines for online content, the ethical principles of journalism don’t change just because they are exercised in a digital format. “Speed is a core advantage of the medium, but should not compromise accuracy, fairness or other journalism values,” the institute writes. And while we may think it’s easier to update or correct Web content, it is difficult to notify users of changes and corrections.

Pexels.com / Kaboompics.com

Pexels.com / Kaboompics.com

Another issue Poynter addresses is linking, “the core of the Web experience.”  When deciding whether to link to content within your own website or external sites, consider the following: Is the content you’re linking to relevant to the reader? Does it include potentially libelous or slanderous content? Does it include content that falls outside your company’s standards for profanity, obscenity or other issues? In general, try to link to material that is accurate, relevant, useful and reputable.

5-Star writer Katherine L has written for numerous publications, from newspapers to magazines, as a professional for about four years. She excels at creating accurate, colorful content on a deadline and can write using a variety of styles.

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