John Battelle's Thoughts on Writing for the Web
I read an interesting interview with John Battelle, who used to be the editor of the magazine, Wired, and is now the editor of the influential blog, Searchblog.com.
He made the comment that the biggest problem that print journalists and book authors face when they become online journalists is that they have a ‘packaged goods mentality’. That is, they are practised at creating complete, polished and proofread articles to meet publishing schedules.
John Battelle argues that online journalism is different.
It is about punchy, relevant and timely publishing. Not about perfection and 100% accuracy. It is about thoughts and reactions. Battelle says it is more like being a radio talk show host. It is a conversation with readers. Short, sharp input followed by feedback. The feedback can then influence the future direction of new content and comments. This can be unnerving for those who have never been directly exposed to their readers and who have hidden behind the publisher’s masthead. Getting used to feedback, both positive and negative, takes time and nerve.
This is a fair comment, although more directly relevant to blogging than building an online subscription newsletter or magazine.
However, I strongly believe that a really good subscription website will be a mix of blogging style input, combined with more considered feature articles. The content should be mixed so that everyday, something new is published, whilst once or twice a week there is some polished ‘packaged goods media’. When this is combined with user-created content in the forums and a sprinkling of audio and video clips, it creates a very compelling proposition for your members.
The three phrases I would use to sum up great subscription website content are:
- Regularly updated
- Highly relevant
- Varied format