Leah Simpson, Senior Editor, POPSUGAR Middle East, talks with TeamTMN on why she thinks it’s time, now, more than ever to pave your way into online journalism and offers advice on how to make the transition.
Saying that it’s time to delve into a digital career is not something I imagined I would still be doing in 2017, after spending years working in the UK and US, and watching the markets embrace the necessary changes as consumption habits shifted towards the Internet. Still, almost a decade after starting my career in online journalism, it’s no secret that the UAE has been slower on the uptake and while, yes, the country’s buying habits may differ from others, it’s important that those with experience mainly in traditional media, embrace the new.
“Still, almost a decade after starting my career in online journalism, it’s no secret that the UAE has been slower on the uptake and while, yes, the country’s buying habits may differ from others, it’s important that those with experience mainly in traditional media, embrace the new.”
With print publication closures and team resources being shrunk (even on those that were comparatively very small to begin with), many have found themselves accepting web-based roles sooner than they thought. For those who are apprehensive about taking the leap, here are three big tips I would give to people making the transition.
Forget the rules
Many of the things you’ll see in print do not apply when publishing on the world wide web. So forget what you were taught and get ready to embrace a different way of writing. For example, with headlines, the main concern is writing something that fits into a space and sounds nice, like a play on words or alliteration. You have got to make sure your post is search engine optimised (using key words that people commonly type into their browsers so people can find what they’re looking for), at the same time with an interesting angle as well as informative.
Unlike in a print publication where the readership is more loyal and may have already made the decision to buy before even reaching the newsstand, there’s constant competition with websites to win the reader’s love among the endless choice of similar URLs out there. In a sense, stories featured on search engine pages could be compared to front covers on busy supermarket shelves, the headline and preview picture have to stand out or you face losing website visits and page views to competitors, of which, unlike print publications, the number is limitless.
Time is everything
In print there are daily, weekly, monthly deadlines but when it comes to online, the pressure is constantly there to cover what’s relevant to your brand and publish it in a timely manner. While it’s true that publications have loyal reader bases that come directly to the site to consume stories in a way that resonates with them, if what they need is not there when they want it, loyalty wanes.
Unless you’re lucky enough to work for a brand with teams on different times zones or big enough to work night shifts, it means, the traditional sense of “office hours” are thrown out the window as you prepare yourself to work from practically any space with an Internet connection, which can be both a blessing and a curse as it frees you from being bound to an office chair but technically, your work is never done.
The whole world is your critic…
In real time, online readers can easily track you down if they disagree with something you have written or notice a mistake. So as well as the pressure to impress your manager, prepare for your every word to be scrutinised by anyone on the planet with internet access.
The comments section on articles and social media may become your worst enemy if you find it difficult to take criticism in the public forum, some not constructive. While it can be a great way to keep the conversation going and get opinions on your piece, sometimes the comments section can become the story itself and if what people are saying isn’t constructive, you’ll have to learn to develop a thick skin. It seems people are more likely to voice a negative opinion rather than a positive one, so when you find yourself in the awkward spot of reading negative responses about your writing, take onboard what is reasonable but shrug off the rest as chances are there’s plenty more where that came from.