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.)?"

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