Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Writing Web Exclusive Articles for Popular Magazines (Part 2 of 3)

Looking for a new way to make money and get your name out there as a writer? Try web exclusives: short (400- to 800-word) articles that only appear on a magazine's website, not in the print version of the magazine. 

Recently, three web editors from major Canadian women's magazines shared their advice on breaking into and writing web exclusives. The editors:  
Here's Part 2 of my interview with the above editors. Missed Part 1? Go here.

What are your tips for writing web-friendly articles for women’s magazines (i.e., what format works best, SEO considerations, web-friendly packaging, etc.)?


1. Stay on track. Don't meander off the point of your article.

2. Be literal. The web isn't the place for overly creative headlines.

3. Visualize your piece on-screen. Will it be easy to read?

4. If you know SEO, include it in your pitches and point out your keywording to your editor. (If you don't know it, consider picking it up.)

5. Suggest related links from the site you're writing for. (This will impress your editor.)

6. Stay within word count. If you write 1000 words instead of 600, your editor will just have to cut - or they'll turn your article into two.

7. Include links for interview sources (i.e., if you interviewed a dietitian, give your editor a url for their site if they have one).

8. Use (clear and understandable) subheds and don't be afraid of bullet points and numbered lists. Titles that start with numerals are immensely clickable.

9. Spell-check and proofread your work. Few web teams have copy-editors and it will just annoy your editor to have to fix obvious mistakes, like sloppy cut-and-paste jobs. (Although this is true for all writing.)

MILNE: Online, people read differently, scanning for relevant information rather than reading stories start to finish. It’s important to have clear subheads or steps to every story – and nothing too punny or vague - so readers can find the paragraph or point that interests them quickly. That also helps with SEO, as does writing very straightforward headlines that clearly state the point of the article (that also helps when the reader does a search, and a list of headlines show up.)

Linking to other articles in your own site (we often do it with Chatelaine recipes in health) is also helpful. I think the most important thing is the same as writing or pitching the magazine, though – to have a good sense of the readership of the magazine, what those readers would be interested in, and where the story would fit. (I get a lot of story pitches that just aren’t Chatelaine, for example, about exotic travel, etc.)
MELO: Keep your lead short and engaging and make sure the purpose of your story is clear early on in the piece. Your body copy should be solutions-oriented and conversational (helpful and friendly). Hyperlink to strong sources of additional information and ensure appropriate keywords are used throughout to help readers find your story via search engines.
Favour clear, simple words the average reader would type into a search engine rather than ambiguous words you think are clever. Write “3 best ab exercises” rather than “Ab fabulous.” Reasoning: A reader who is looking for ab exercises probably wouldn’t type “ab fabulous” into a search engine. Writing “ab exercises” helps readers to find your content but it also helps your writing to remain more conversational and appealing to the most expansive readership.
Stay tuned for Part 3.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Writing Web Exclusive Articles for Popular Magazines (Part 1 of 3)

Web Exclusives: A New Gig for Freelance Magazine Writers

With the web being where people go first for information--and talk in the magazine industry about how it will survive in the coming years--the opportunity for freelance magazine writing has expanded to include web-only articles. 

Magazines used to throw whatever content was in print onto their corresponding website (offering writers a small or no fee for additional online rights). They still do that, but now there's more opportunity online.

Web editors are also hiring freelancers to hammer out web exclusives--short, SEO-minded articles that only appear online, not in print. 

I've been writing a lot of them.

The upside? They're quick to write, and getting these assignments can be less "fuss" than the usual process for receiving print assignments.

The downside? The pay--the per-article rate for web exclusives is less than what you get for print (but going back to the upside I mentioned, the pay can work out to be a decent enough hourly rate).    

I caught up with three web editors at major women's and lifestyle magazines in Canada who generously agreed to share the scoop on writing web exclusives:
In this three-part series, I'll post each editor's response to three important questions about web exclusive content on magazine websites and how it can help you succeed at freelance writing. 

Here's Part 1. 

How is web exclusive content generally different from content that appears in the print magazine first?

TANCOCK: Readers online are generally looking for quick fixes and easy solutions, rather than a "good read." Therefore web content needs to be a lot more to the point.

Also, most people find reading on-screen more tiring than reading on paper, so web content needs to be oriented toward that experience: this is why bullet points, shorter paragraphs, frequent subheds and selective bolding within paragraphs is often used.

Finally, the web is, well, a web: articles don't appear in isolation. It's important to make use of the web by cross-linking, both within the site and to other sources. For instance, in a nutrition article that discusses sweet potatoes, we would add a link to some sweet potato recipes; or, in an article on the importance of strength training, we would cross-link to some arm exercises.

MILNE: In my experience, web-exclusive content is shorter and snappier: under 500 words, often lighter in tone (quizzes, lists, how-tos or recipes), and, above all else, something that you might Google.

The subjects are also different. At Chatelaine, much of our online content is health and recipes, and there’s less style, etc.

Oddly, online is often written in a more “evergreen” style, since it’s not often dated and normally stays in the archives. In terms of art and display, there are far more stock photos online than there are in the magazine, and the display tends to be more straightforward.

MELO: Web exclusive content needs to be more concise and more easily scanned than magazine content.

Subheads, bulleted lists and bolded words for emphasis work best for easy scanning for the web reader. Be clear, concise and compelling. Always serve the reader first.

Up next: Stay tuned for Part 2, where I'll post our editors' responses to my next question: "What are your tips for writing web-friendly articles for magazines (i.e., what format works best, SEO considerations, web-friendly packaging, etc.)?"