The Web (digital writing space), and… “You’re doing it all wrong!”

So, you want to take the step away from print and write something for the Web? Great! Problem is… you probably won’t do it right. In fact, most people aren’t using the digital writing space properly.

Well, hold on a sec… let’s revisit that, and say, instead…  most people aren’t using all the affordances (part of my “electrify your content” mentality) available to them on the Web/in the digital space.

Right; that’s better, and a little less abrasive.

Let’s be clear. I write for the Web (mostly history… so, that’s where my thoughts are at as I write this), and have been doing it for several years… and I’m even aware of where I’m failing (with respect to those aforementioned “affordances”). When I write for the Web, I often find myself slipping right back into that “comfort zone” of writing for print… with a few exceptions, like… the ability to use hyperlinks, and greater awareness of a more interactive audience. I even continue to read content on the Web that could easily be defined as “cut and paste” from a print outlet, with the exception being, generally, the use of hyperlinks. Oh, yes… I still read it… though, when the author goes too long, I do find myself, more and more, opting not to read to the end. It… just doesn’t feel right… in this writing space. Bottom line is… people, even when writing for the Web are writing for print. Shouldn’t we feel some remorse for this? I mean, aren’t we inhibiting our own growth and the ability to effectively reach a larger, more diverse audience?

Frankly, I’m a firm believer in using marketing strategies in the way we write. That being said, it’s not that I use them… no, as a matter of fact, I rarely use them… but I know I should be using them. Alas, I’m such a hypocrite. For not doing so, I think I’m (along with many, many others) doing the digital writing space an injustice.

So, what does it take to get us out of this rut and moving on to bigger and better presentation of our digital texts? Good question.

As it so happens, just the other day, I ran across an article of interest… “Ready or Not, Generation D is Here – and They are Going Hyper!” Granted it’s over seven months old, but I think it practiced what it preached. It was short and had good info. That said, I suspect I wasn’t the reader they were thinking about when they considered their target audience (the readers they anticipated), but… I found value in part of their “business-people-focused” piece. As I said earlier, when we write digital content for the Web, there’s a benefit in understanding marketing strategies in the Web. To that end, is there not also a benefit to knowing the potential audience? “Generation D”, the article claims, is the generation of the “Internet of Me”. While there are a number of messages being presented in the article, I was particularly interested in the following:

Generation D is looking for – a new level of relevancy that drives personalization because “it is all about me.” Marketing to Gen D means really drawing them in, creating a great Customer Experience that is tailored to them and that is worth raving about.”

So, when you write content, they will come? No, this doesn’t mean that. People will agree and disagree. “You can please some of the people some of the time, but…” Yet, I’d argue that writing pieces that loop the relevancy of the reader back into the content is probably significant. Even in writing history, what are you selling and why is it important… not just to you, but to the reader? In this respect,  I also think it’s important to keep in mind… why is that history of some point in the past, relevant to today?

It’s not about the volume, it’s about the value.

I think this can be defined a couple of ways, but I’m just going to tackle the one that strikes a chord in me. In a word, brevity. Keep it simple, keep it fresh (regurgitating info found elsewhere is just… BORING), make the reader think (not to mention, make it clear to the reader that you took the time to think about the content), and then see where the cards land on the table. You don’t need to write a college composition… or an article meant for a journal. That’s not what the Web is about… really, it’s not. That’s not to say, however, that people won’t read something lengthy, or that it’s really the wrong way to use the digital space, but… is it reaching as far as you, the writer, would like?

Ultimately, don’t let this or any other piece scare you away from writing for the Web. Give it a whirl, and then… keep writing for the Web. Interaction, engagement, and a sense of awareness of both self and the reader… all are to be found when you stick with it. In time, if you consider all of these things, I’d argue that you’ll l have to start wondering how to write more effectively. It’s funny, but in some sense this thinking of writing for the digital space comes back, full circle to the how one thinks about writing for print. At the core, the learning process, over time, forces one to think about how to write more effectively… in the respective writing spaces.



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