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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, and your contributors, for the great suggestions Amanda! I'm looking forward to part 3 of the series. Meanwhile, I'm wondering if you have any suggestions on how to determine if an internet source is legitimate. For example, I am considering submitting an application to Demand Studios but have concerns about protecting my ideas and personal information since the process is done via internet. Do you have any insights or suggestions with respect to this? Also, do you advise writing for sources that will claim copyrights to the material that gets published? Any feedback you have is greatly appreciated.

Amanda Vogel said...

Thanks for your comment and questions.

When I write articles for the web, I usually stick to sites that are either connected to a reputable magazine (or newspaper) or sites that have been around for a while.

I can't comment on the legitimacy of sites like Demand Studios and Examiner.com, but they do appear to be among the most prominent of their type.

Generally speaking, even though the pay to write web exclusives for magazine websites is low, I believe it's still higher than what the average writer makes at sites such as the one you mentioned. However, I don't have experience writing for sites like Demand Studios, so I can’t say for sure.

Amanda Vogel said...

To answer your second question about copyright: A lot of magazine contracts specify that the copyright goes to them once they buy your article. Sometimes this is negotiable, sometimes it isn't.

Whether I agree to hand over copyright of my articles may depend on a number of factors, including how much the website pays (if it's a very small amount, forget it), whether I think I can resell the article again anyway and what goals/reasons I have for writing for a particular magazine/website.

Hope this helps!