Question: I created one child for print, and another for the web

Question: I created one child for print, and another for the web
Is there a difference? Can you tell the difference?


The child created for the web is a lot shorter and much more active.

Join the conversation


Writing for new media is different

Writing for new media and the web has unique payoffs and pitfalls. Using them will help us write copy that appears before more readers and holds their attention longer. Let's share our tips for writing copy that will spark interest, maintain reader involvement, and place highly in search results.

Let's also discuss non-copy elements - widgets, RSS feeds, polls, imbedded video, photos, and killer graphics - that we use to engage the reader. We need every trick: readers are just one click away from other compelling articles and videos...and they know it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is social media worth?

The value of social search: how about 40% of the net income of AT&T? I just read in Dave Evan's Social Media Marketing that in 2005, AT&T's Directories Services segment netted 40% of the company's total net. Social search - being able to find and connect - accounted for a huge chunk of cash, $2 billion in this case. If search, finding people and information, is so valuable it pays to USE those keywords and embed them prominently in copy. Help readers find your writing. Here's a link to Dave's blog:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Heat map shows hot spots for writing new media

In new media, readers quickly scan your copy, looking for important info at the upper left. Put your facts in the 4 to 6 words of copy closest to the left margin because that's what readers are most likely to see.
The heat map measures eyeball movement. Read it like a weather map, with red indicating the most intense areas of visual engagement, followed by orange, yellow, get the picture. The heat map confirms that most readers only "see" less than a quarter of the precious copy we slaved over.
So: put your story where those eyeballs are, in the upper left and at the start of copy lines. Pack your key words in there, to reassure readers that this is an article they want to read; they searched for those key words and need to see them, or they'll click away.
It's not enough to produce good content; we have to put it where it will be seen. Visit to see how heat maps can help you position web design elements as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Olivier Blanchard Basics Of Social Media Roi

This SlideShare Presentation gives some nice ideas on measuring the impact of social media. How can we sell our projects unless we can prove they work?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Social media: getting it wrong is a great blog to read regularly if you’re serious about writing for new media. (And if you’re not, why are you here?) Please take a few minutes and read this insightful article, The Top 5 Misconceptions about Social Media. We not only need to educate ourselves, but this article clearly answers objections we are likely to hear from every potential client when we make a social media presentation. Here’s a sample:

Misconception #3: “By using social media we will lose control of our Brand’s Image” People will talk about your brand whether you like it or not. Opening a Facebook page is not going to change it and not opening a Facebook page is not going to make it go away. The question is: Do you want to be a part of that conversation or not?

I have reservations about the writer’s reference to “social media experts,” since the field is evolving so rapidly, but the concept of a company seeking professional help is sound. Enjoy.

Writing for new media; do it.

Do you have a blog? Post comments on other blogs? Have a Facebook page? A LinkedIn page? Do you tweet at least occasionally on Twitter? If you intend to write for new media, why don’t you do it? I was reading an article about Skyrock (xenophobes beware: site in French), the world’s 7th biggest social network, and found this quote by Skyrock CEO, Pierre Bellanger:

“You learn nothing through words but through experience: if you are interested in social media, experiment! Never consider that you know a service because you have read about it.”

Playing around after reading how others have done it successfully is the best way to get a feel for the media. Ground rules: listen before you speak, and read more than you write. Some say a good rule of thumb is to read twice as much as you write. I would suggest reading ten times more than you write. But the important thing is to just do it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Writing new media? Read new media!

Posting is important; reading is even more important. Even if you can't find the time to pop off a fresh post regularly, scan Mashable or your favorite new media site while you sip your morning coffee. Take the 5 minutes and see what the world's doing with new media every day. Things change quickly, and you want to be ahead of the curve. Don't you? Read like your job depends on it because, guess what? It probably does.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The key to writing new media: keep learning!

To be successful in the digital business one has to be constantly learning and adapting to a changing context. Companies pay large salaries for digital "experts" even though the internet is changing so fast that what works today might not work tomorrow.

Where do internet “experts” come from? How can there be so many and how can they know so much? Greg Satell at Digital Tonto is at it again, with another thought-provoking post on the internet and the Western philosophical tradition. It's well worth a read, and encourages us to keep reading, keep learning, with examples of the true humility voiced by some of the greatest minds in history. Reading Greg regularly is a good way to keep learning.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New media writing style: direct

Speaking of Hemingway (and we were) I'm reminded of a feud he had with William Faulkner about writing style. Faulkner stated that Hemingway never used a word that sent his readers to the dictionary. Hemingway retorted, "Poor Faulkner. He thinks big emotions come from big words." I enjoy both writers, and in fact just purchased a leatherbound copy of As I Lay Dying to savor, slowly. But for new media, especially social media, be brief. State your purpose. Make your point, in simple, direct prose. Deliver the goods. And sign off.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Keep writing posts! Keep your blog fresh and alive.

New media must be fed. Keep posting, even if they're short, interesting posts. Remember Hemingway: "Only three things are necesary to be a writer: he must write today, he must write tomorrow, and he must write the day after tomorrow." That's as well as I can remember the quote, but you get the idea: stay at it. Blog today, blog tomorrow, and blog the day after tomorrow. It is better not to start than to foray into social media and then dry up. It takes months for a forum to catch on, so keep writing fresh posts.

A posting schedule is a good idea. Maybe every Monday or weekend you can add something of value to your site. If you read social media as much as you should (rule 1) you will find many things you'll want to discuss and share. Keep it up!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is blogging for your brand like selling uncut cocaine?

Well, yes. Rather than risking your brand story be "cut" (adulterated, misinerpreted) by others, whether by PR firms or random bloggers, tell the story yourself, clean and powerful.

It's a strange analogy, a stretch I admit, but David Spark makes a good case and writes an interesting article in Check it out.

The best kept secret of writing for new media

I can't resist a headline like this. I'll read that post. Other good headlines promise a specific list of interesting facts, such as "5 ways to increase readership" or "The 3 most common new media mistakes...and how to avoid them." Write a good headline and 50% of your work is accomplished. There's an old maxim, "Well begun is half done."

Since I stole your attention, I'll deliver value (always do that). The best kept secret of writing for new media is...

The headline. It is the only element most of your audience will read (and even then, only if it's catchy). Spend time getting it right: state your central point, and why it's important to the reader. "5 ways to increase readership" does both. If you use a gimmick headline (like "The best kept secret of writing for new media"), put your main point and explain its value to your reader in the first sentance. Like, "It shouldn't be a secret, but it is: really CARE about your reader, and write with the sole purpose of making their life richer, fuller, and more productive. Good communities will grow around posts like this, and, to paraphrase Google, you will do no evil."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Average reader reads 20% of new media copy

In fact, the longer your copy, the less of it gets read. A survey just established that. So keep it short, and place important facts in the first few sentances where they're more likely to be read. People are busy, and your window of attention is short.

Write chunks of about 3 sentances. Keep the piece down to 100 words, 400 max. Better to write 2 separate articles that get read, rather than a long one that gets skipped.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Set up a forum for customers

Ok, ok, not as grand as the Forum Romanum but you get the idea. Set up a blog where customers can air and exchange views on your brand. In pharmaceuticals, that could be a patient forum, a physician forum, or a combined forum (could be interesting). For pharma, comments would have to be moderated for regulatory reasons. You will find out more from your forums than any customer survey: users will tell you what they really feel and what they need. Forums will also help youo keep aware of what the hot topics are in your market. This is your opportunity to listen, gather information, and plan tactics accordingly. Forums are an underused resource – for traffic, leads, customer insights, new product announcements, criticisms, and product improvements. Most importantly, they provide your brand advocates a platform to convert others by their testimonials.

3 ways social media can help your pharmaceutical brand

1) Find and fix weakness – Do patients have trouble with side effects? Is paying for the drug the major issue? Do patients find it hard to access side-effect management programs or drug access programs you have already set up? Are physicians aware of all these programs? Monitor "mentions" on Twitter to hear and help out with these issues. Set up a Google Alert on your company name to find where your client/company/brand has been mentioned nearly anywhere on the web. By using a dedicated social media monitoring tool, you can find tweets, blogs, and forums mentioning the company or brand. Use this information to engage and become part of the solution.

2) Create brand advocates - Listening to the conversation about your brand will give you a chance to comment, not only correcting negative feedback but also adding additional benefits the user may not already know about. This bolsters enthusiasm for the brand. Demonstrating that you bothered to read their comments and care about their opinions helps create brand advocates.

3) Deliver product assistance - Social media monitoring can help you deliver information on your company or brand exactly where –and when – it is needed. Monitoring social media conversations on Twitter or on blogs and forums allows you to help patients and physicians use your drug or contact your representatives. At the same time get a better picture of the needs of the marketplace.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How print writers can adapt to writing for digital media

Guest post by Greg Satell at Digital Tonto.
Writers are some of the most talented people I have had the pleasure of working with. However, most find it hard adapting to digital media. Many succeed and find that they enjoy new media; some never really get the hang of it, while others just accept the reality and plod through. Whatever a writer's particular inclination, here are some points that can help:

Change fonts: On paper, serif fonts like Times New Roman help the reader navigate through the text. However, in digital the audience is reading off a screen and the small details of serif fonts can be hard to read given limits of screen resolution. Therefore, use a sans-serif font (like Arial) even if it isn't what you're used to.

Cut up the text: On the internet, people scan more than they read. They avoid large blocks of text. Make paragraphs smaller and add frequent subheads to help the reader digest material at a quick pace. Print writers need to alter their style for new media.

Understand entry points: While most print writers understand entry points in print, (e.g., charts and sidebars), the concept takes on a whole new meaning in digital media. Printed matter is generally read from front to back, and the cover is always seen before the content. The internet is 3D: less than half of the audience ever sees the home page. People might get to your article through search engines, links from other sites, etc. The landing page could be anywhere, so every page is a potential entry point.

Understand the important relationships that your writing creates: While printed matter is a closed system, an internet document has relationships to other documents both locally and globally. An article can be much more important for what it leads the reader to than for what it actually says. There are a variety of ways you can take advantage of these new possibilities:

- Link to reference sources: On the internet, you can share your research as well as your ideas with your reader. Readers will appreciate your thoughts even more if you give them some insight into how you arrived at them.

- Create content clusters: Build a series of related content and reference resources and link them to your article. This lets you weave different aspects and thoughts on a subject into a single body of work. As an ancillary benefit, this also helps search engines find what you write.

- Write shorter articles: A very short article can be engaging and useful if it leads interested readers to other valuable content. A five-page feature wouldn't do well on the internet (people usually print them).

Get comfortable with interactivity: A few years ago, my wife and I found a sick two-week-old puppy in Tbilisi, Georgia. We fell in love with him, brought him home, and now treat him as part of the family. We even talk to him! It's great having him around, but I'm not sure how I would feel if one day he talked back.

On the internet, the dogs talk back (and some of them bite!). Print writers aren't used to being accessible to their audience. Some writers appreciate the feedback, but others find it jarring and hurtful. In either case, interactivity is here to stay so this is something that you're just going to have to get used to.

Extra reading:
5 Crucial Aspects of a Digital Media Transition
Double Readership with a Simple Tweak

Read Greg at Digital Tonto, his blog about Digital Business and more.

Monday, August 17, 2009

96% of new media writers agree

And here's a graph to prove it.

Agree with what? Who cares; I made you look.

Graphs, photos, videos, maps, interactive games, satellite photos; use them all to grab browsing readers and pull them in.

This is for you

That's it. The headline and graphic. My gifts to you.

The point is, readers came to your site for SOMETHING, so you'd better give them something -fast- or they're gone, faster than your last paycheck.

Deliver new media content up front. Make a promise in the headline and pay it off in the first sentance or two, or at least hook readers with the expectation that they will find something interesting soon. What reader need will you fill? If you can't fill a reader need, why are you blogging? If you just like to write, buy a diary.

It's not all about gimmicks. I'm actually a medical writer (like you care) and my articles can get long and complex. Still, I tell the reader up front what I'm going to deliver, and pay it off as quickly and clearly as possible. "Don't touch that's what you came for."

Did he just use a radio metaphor to describe writing for new media? And sneak two keywords into his last sentance?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why learning new media is essential

This powerful video was created by Socialnomics09; check out their YouTube Channel at Much of the data can be found in Digital Marketing by Wertime and Fenwick, who cite the original sources. Quite simply, new media is more than the wave of the future; it's a tsunami, and it's happening right now. We will learn to use it well or become marginalized (and ultimately extinct) through digital Darwinism.

Viral marketing resource

Viral marketing (AKA buzz marketing) is the new media extention of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. WOM can make or break your brand more effectively than any other avenue. Download this informative PDF at

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New media strategy: brand storytelling

Stories can be compelling because they're personal, and new media is, above all, personal. Storytelling not only engages readers, it expresses your brand personality. A well-told story also resonates with readers, forging a bond and inviting readers to join the conversation with stories of their own. At its best, a good brand story can transition the prosumer from awareness to trial to advocacy.

Fishing for customer stories
Once people use your brand to describe their life (a Mac user, a Harley owner) they have brought the product into their personal story, and brand exposure will increase exponentially. This promotes viral marketing. My agency services the professional oncology/immunology community. Imagine if physicians started putting stories involving your brand on physician sites like New Media Medicine or Physician Connect at Medscape Oncology. The potential for patient testimonials or Q&A sites is obvious as well. Check out this article on brand storytelling with new media at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Use the synergy of new media

Write articles and slide presentations giving away content on Linkedin, Facebook, and your blog to drive people to your web site and Twitter. Use Twitter to direct people to your YouTube video channel, Linkedin, and Facebook. Use your videos and slides to provide content and promote your brand while directing people to your blog and web site, Linkedin, and Facebook pages. Everything drives traffic to your web site, where you integrate the most marketable elements you have gleaned from your social media sites, and promote your brand. It's the wheel of life. Other specific sites will be appropriate depending on your product, client, and target audience.

Target your audience

Greg Satell offers the following words of wisdom in his new blog, especially appropriate for our oncology/immunology agency: "Narrow your target: Just because the internet allows you to reach the whole world, doesn’t mean you should actually try to do it. By highlighting a few communities you can not only focus the intensity of your marketing efforts, you can more quickly reach critical mass within those communities and promote word of mouth." Read him at:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New media: make the transition to digital media

There's a new blog about digital business that recently featured a post on becoming a digital agency. "One of the biggest challeges facing media companies today is how to transition from the 'offline world' to the Digital World. It can be an extremely difficult process, fraught with danger, overdevelopment and underperformance. Unfortunately, most legacy media companies find little success, despite big plans. What follows are five aspects that address the most common mistakes." Check out:

Double readership with a simple tweak

That’s it. You just read the tweak. Write a headline that grabs interest. Offer a benefit, almost too good to be true and pay it off with fast-paced copy. With new media, a visitor decides in milliseconds whether to read your copy or click away. The noise level on the web is astronomical; to get read, you have to hook the reader, and fast. Then deliver or die.

Writing blog comments cause cancer

At least, that belief must be prevalent judging from the paucity (nice word) of comments posted on this site. ENGAGEMENT is part of using new media, and it involves increasing your web presence by posting comments, among other things. Other things like using Twitter, posting on your own blog, and voting on Digg. Using new media involves listening as well as talking, and posting comments is one way you show you're listening. So make your presence known, and practice media interaction: leave a comment.

SEO copywriting (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO involves (among other things) writing using targeted keywords with an ideal keyword density, and links as an indication of quality and relevance. This link takes you to a site that, like so many, teaches a little and tries to sell you more. Learn what you can for free and move on. There's a lot here.

Another great tutorial on SEO:

Monday, August 10, 2009

If new media isn't taking you somewhere different, why are you using it?

Because you think you should?
Because the competition is doing it?
Because your boss asked you?
Bad reasons. Words on a page are only that, but new media offers video, audio, photos, hyperlinks, and interactivity. Don't jump off the cliff of print media unless you're willing to spread your wings. Fly a little. It's fun.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Unknown blogger arrested - faces years of editing clinical trials

The Grammar Police snapped the cuffs on me for my last post about breaking the formal rules of usage. As part of a community-service plea bargain, I concede their major points:

1) Know your audience, and use an appropriate voice (persona). If you're writing for investors, keep your sense of humor to yourself and follow strict conventions. An annual report is still an annual report, even if it's online. And "wacky" is rarely appropriate.

2) Adapt your style to the medium. While all are new media, blog writing is less formal and more personal than the company web site, and Twitter is practically shorthand, demanding an open style to achieve economy (144 characters).

3) Write well. You can break rules to express personality, but do so consciously; don't be careless. Our writing will hang on the net for a long time, telling readers about you and your company with words you may never be able to change.

This said, be human in your writing. Authenticity is the currency of new media.

Am I still fired?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Forbidden secrets of writing for new media

That’s a joke, right? Because the essence of new media is that it’s a conversation, and we all do (or should) know how to talk. No jargon, please. And don’t be afraid to start a sentence with a conjunction, or use a sentence fragment. Or two. Break a few rules to write like real people talk. Be interesting, engage the reader, and make your point in clear, direct language.

Then shut up and listen.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A few writers are telling me "B," that good copy is just good copy, period.

I admit that with minor format modifications and more direct copy (due as much to our TV-diminished attention span as to the demands of new media) a good writer can easily adapt. There's a lot to learn about the new technologies themselves, but that's outside our discussion on style. Please keep the feedback coming in.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some say "A," it's a different animal.

I asked the same question on LinkedIn, and got feedback that people thought writing for new media demanded a completely different skill set. True, hypertext can provide detail without slowing down the copy, and copy chunks have to be a lot shorter.