Tag Archives: print to online media

Transitioning from Journalist to Web Writer; A Few Tips To Get You Started

I have met people through this site and offline who are trying to transition from the world of print journalism to the world of online media. Here are a few tips to get started.

1. Let Go of Your Inhibitions

Writing for the web is not a magic skill. Good web writing, like all good writing, takes time to perfect, but it isn’t a scary monster that you are incapable of. You are already an excellent writer; you just need to step out of your comfort zone to learn this new medium.

2. You are More Technically Inclined Than You Think

If you are a journalist, you are probably already skilled with FTP software and content management systems. If not, my advice would be to sign up with a course at a local college or university that offers an introduction to newer communications tools, or asking a friend or family member to just sit down with you for a few hours and help you figure it out.

If you can manage typing words onto a screen and saving them in WordPress, Blogger or a similar platform, you can reasonably hack writing for the web. Once you’ve been doing it for a while, you may want to study more advanced subjects such as web design in order to improve, but you most likely have the basic tools that you need right now.

3. You Have a Portfolio; Use It

If all of your portfolio pieces are shoved into multiple filing cabinets, buy a scanner and scan them into your computer. This is fairly easy and is well worth the small investment of money and the larger investment of time. The sheer size of your portfolio as a journalist will stun anyone into hiring you. If you don’t think you can hack a scanner, scanning services are often available at your nearest office or copy services store. They will not only scan the pieces for you, but make the final product look professional and small enough to e-mail, something you may not be able to manage on your own just yet.

4. Learn Keyword Research
When writing any website copy or blog posts, you should do keyword research. This is simply accomplished by visiting Google’s Keyword tool, typing in what you think will be the best descriptive phrase, and then analyzing the results. You want to choose both short tail and long tail keywords for your copy at a keyword density of 4%, or translated into English, 1-2 times for an 800 word page of copy. A short tail keyword is a word or phrase that shows many results, while a long tail keyword shows fewer results. Why would you want fewer results? Long tail keywords usually mean a more highly focused search and consequent higher clickthrough rates to your post or page.

While there is a lot more to writing with search engine optimization in mind, this will give you a good start. The topic is quite fascinating and the best way to learn it is really to optimize your own site for the search engines, a practice that you will find highly addictive.

5. Adopt a Conversational Style

If you have been writing for a newspaper for years, you are accustomed to using a very non-involved style in order to be a professional journalist. The web is slightly different. You are having a conversation with your reader, you aren’t simply reporting the facts. This is particularly true in blog postings, but you will also want to adopt a more conversational tone for website copy.

If the above still seems like Greek to you, contact your alma mater or a local college and talk to them about courses in WordPress, search engine optimization and basic web design. A more formal setting like a night school course may help you a lot more than self-directed learning if that is the setting that you are used to. Some schools may even offer web writing courses. Whatever you do, post your success stories in our forum and let us know what worked best for you. We may even write another post about what you found helpful!