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It's All Happening Online

When I first got online there wasn't much of a writing market. Salon, Feed, Suck, Urban Desires, Word and a few others made a gallant effort to sustain themselves. Salon, surprisingly, is still with us.

Most have disappeared but many excellent publications have opened up the net writing market.

The net has gone from a nice, interesting toy to an absolute necessity. It has grown into a fascinating, exacting kind of necessity. You still have to walk through the bear and bull baiting rings, prostitutes and legless war veterans selling tulips on the corner to get to the playhouse but there it is.

The dynamics are simple: everyone is on the beast. Every publisher is on it, almost all the readers are on it, the agents, booksellers, reviewers are all on it.

Instead of a nice, rational marketplace and literary system there is a massive mosh-pit of types bumping and grinding at the center of some green universe. It can be overwhelming and very intimidating. It makes, at times, the print publishing system appear genteel and simple.

Yes, the favorite mantra around here is, "the computer is the publisher." Leaving aside the difficulty achieving that goal one can say that the internet is a profound conduit to the publisher.

I get alerted to these things because of the correspondence I receive as part of Questions and Answers. Mehfooz, for instance, is a journalist and subeditor at the Daily Mashriq Peshawar and wants to sell to foreign markets.

The internet has allowed him to see beyond his locality, out into the huge, awful world.

It's not simply the Mehfooz's of the world but all of the "web site writer/editor" jobs I come across running Sunoasis Jobs. Writing for content on the web is becoming a mainstream occupation.

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The online market is as robust as it has ever been. And this time around, unlike the late 90's, companies are actually putting money in their web sites.

The writing market is learned through osmosis. You can't master it all at once.

Any decent library will have these resources and more:

  • Bacon’s Newspaper Directory
  • Bacon’s Magazine Directory
  • Editor and Publisher International Yearbook
  • Inland Press Association Membership Directory
  • Directory of International Internships
  • SRDS Business Publication Advertising Source
  • SRDS Consumer Magazine Advertising Source.
  • SRDS Print Media Production Source
  • O’Dwyer’s Directory of Corporate Communications
  • Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media
  • Gebbie Press All-In-One Directory
  • Marketer's Guide to Media
  • Literary Market Place
  • Magazines for Libraries
  • Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory

The blogosphere is proving to be a place for writers of all types. Pick out a product or service, research it, and then offer an interesting package to the webmaster. Try it and see what happens.

Or learn the intricacies of a high-traffic blog. Here is where the professional writer has a great advantage. Any subject you are resourceful about can be turned into a blog.

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The market is crowded with opinion of every sort. To write opinion effectively don't simply write off the top of your head as most of the amateurs do. Do an excellent search, read a lot of different opinion, and continually revise what you write; blog or no blog.

H o w  T o  R e a c h  B u s i n e s s  W e b s i t e s

The need for writing in the business world is generally under-appreciated. Even at this late date there are plenty of small businesses that can be helped getting an online presence with compelling written copy.

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I always read the "web content writer/editor" ads that come into Sunoasis or are posted on other sites. They are almost always technical positions with a smattering of writing and editing. The company is looking for that magical person who combines web knowledge and savviness with writing and editing talent. They are hungry for new and exciting content.

It's crucial to market and to prepare a portfolio you can send through email that shows a web editor your prowess in making good copy and meeting deadlines. You might throw in a little working knowledge of SEO copywriting as well.

There are plenty of advertisements for "content providers" on Sunoasis Jobs, Craigslist, Monster, MediaBistro, and others. But a writer can always do a Google or Yahoo search with a key word or phrase that encapsulates the writer's expertise and see what companies are open to a writer's talent.

Emphasize the benefit you'll bring to that specific company.

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Get fifteen to twenty core markets you feel confident you can sell to. Get all the contact information, study them, prepare ideas and try to develop a decent relationship with the web editor.

Peel back any organization that has written material to find out how you can be of service to them. Every association or group has a newsletter of one kind or the other.

Another good source to use are the "yellow pages."

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Almost every company has a media kit. These are prepared for possible advertisers who come looking for space to place their ads. In the media kit is a summation of the demographics for the business entity. That is a very useful piece of information that can tell you the slant, tone, and possible ideas to bring to an audience of a business website. Remember, the more you know about the people the website targets the greater chance you have of penetrating the needs of that website.

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The three articles of faith in writing for the web are, "be concise, be scannable, be objective." In other words, study copywriting and poetry.

Scannable simply means that people go to the net looking for information useful to them. Most people pick out key words and phrases, tracking down the piece of information they really need. I admit I'm in the minority of those who go to the web for reading pleasure. The facts favor the majority.

It makes sense to follow the advice of usability experts and learn the writing techniques that seem to work.

Try this ten-minute Internet Writing Guide if you are new to the net.

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We look in the marvelous Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus and see that some of the terms connected with information are: instruction, advice, guidance, direction, counsel, even enlightenment.

The Oxford American Dictionary says, "1. facts told or heard or discovered..."

Information is the gold people are hunting for. More times than not it's fool's gold but we aren't here to judge.

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Try to discover the structure of organization and what the relation is between the web master and the web editor. Many times, as we alluded to, they are the same person. But one of them is responsible for buying new content. And they are experimenting with content to figure out what works.

The goal isn't to attract readers to read ads so much as it is to keep readers in the site, clicking all around.

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Writer Krista McGruder has an excellent idea: Connect with web design companies in your area and give them your package. The web design companies are many times called in by businesses to do the technical end of a commercial website. We talked about "networking" last issue: This is a perfect example of a node in the network good to cultivate.

The important thing is to study a website as you would a magazine. What is the purpose of the website? How do they make revenue? What content is already on there?

O B S E R V A T I O N S:
  1. Advertising, the driving engine of publishing, is moving online. As one executive put it, "the kids aren't reading newspapers or watching TV; they are online." And we say, good for you kids because this is one monstrous resource if you do it right.
  2. Corporations are spending billions of dollars trying to upgrade the writing skills of their employees. Why? Business lives and dies through communication. Writing either provides a business with credibility or destroys the credibility. And since business is using the internet more and more there are plenty of opportunities to help businesses develop a credible interface with the public.
  3. The blogosphere is rapidly turning into a commercial enterprise for information and marketing purposes. They are, apparently, perfectly adaptable to the daily, rapid-fire, and linked platform of the internet.
  4. New and odd sorts of writing appear such as "SEO article writing," or syndicated articles about your subject of expertise that links back to your website and give you more traffic.
  5. Major print publishers are now rallying the troops to go integrate with the internet with full speed ahead. Whether they do it right or not is anyone's guess but by doing so they double the space for written material. And shrewd writers know that writing for the net and print are different animals.
  6. Self-publishing has grown dramatically as writers learn the sophistication of making and marketing their own books through print-on-demand or old fashioned, do-it-yourself-ism.
  7. A real effort is underway to start using the aggregator technology to create a more efficient, less chaotic internet through which people will routinely customize their news and information.
  8. Many, many learning curves await the world for good or ill. But it means that there will have to be a lot of written communication explaining these things to a fascinated but befuddled world.
  9. I do see more and more advertisements for freelance writers posted around the net. I still think the free-agent needs to find the market and then reach out to it with a compelling package. But maybe I'm old-fashioned.

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If you have any questions about careers in freelance writing don't hesitate to ask!

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David Eide
Copyright 2000-2016

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David Eide
copyright 2000-2016