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Transitioning from Print Writing to Online Markets

print writing to online writingIf you are a freelance writer who writes for print publications like magazines and newspapers, you know that times are changing. Many print markets are going under as the Internet is taking over how people receive their information. If you want to advance your career and start marketing yourself as a writer to online markets, there are some things that you should know.

Writing for print markets and writing for online markets are two different animals. And, how your articles will be found by the readers requires that you have some technical knowledge about search engines and how to write so they like your work, too.


When working with print publications, you could basically write any kind of headline that you wanted to write for your piece. Your humor and craftiness as a wordsmith probably had free reign, as long as it was within the publication’s parameters. Not so with online writing. The headline of an online article must be concise and contain the keywords that a reader is looking for. Otherwise, your article will never appear when a search is done through a search engine.

For instance, if you were writing an article about different varieties of apples for a local newspaper your headline might read: Which One Do You Find Most Delicious? If you put this as a title for an online article, it would never come up when someone did a search on the different varieties of apples. Why? The search engine doesn’t know what your article is about. A title that would work would be: Apple Varieties: Which One is Most Delicious? 

No Tease

In a lot of print writing, a tease is given at the beginning of the article and people have to continue reading to figure out what the writer is going to discuss. This doesn’t work for online articles. The beginning of an online article should contain a short summary of what the reader can expect to find in the article itself.

If you do it correctly, the reader will want to know the details and they will continue to read the article. If you do not summarize what the article is about in the first paragraph, readers will generally not waste their time reading and they will click away.

To be truthful, if you do not summarize the article in the first paragraph, readers might not ever even see your article. Why? The beginning (first sentence or two) of online articles should contain the topic of the article. This means the subject of the article will be found in the first couple of sentences in the first paragraph. In addition to the title, this is also how search engines find the content to give to readers when they do a search.

To the Point and Concise

You never hear someone saying they are going to settle in and cozy up with their computer. That is what they do for print markets – like magazines, newspapers, and books. To put it bluntly, readers of online articles have a smaller attention span than readers of print markets. When readers get on the Internet, they generally do not have much time and they aren’t planning on surfing for very long. They log on to their computers to get the information they need, then they move on.

While opinions differ on what is the best length for articles, the rule of thumb for online writing is the shorter the articles, the better. The majority of people read online content out of necessity. Anything beyond 800-1000 words can overwhelm readers. If an article is going to go past 1000 words it should be condensed into two postings. If you are going to write an article that has over 400-600 words, it is also a good idea to have sub-headings. This will enable the reader to scroll down to the information they want to read. In regards to sub-headings, they should contain words that will let the reader know what they can expect to find in that section of text. 

More Info, Less Entertainment

While there are many entertainment sites on the Web, generally speaking, web writing informs, it does not entertain. People who do online searches are looking for information, even the ones who do searches on entertainment topics.

Depending on the site and market you are writing for, you may be asked to put personality and humor into pieces. However, this takes a back seat to the keys to online writing which are keywords and viable information. If you do find a market where humor and entertainment is wanted and acceptable, it will still take a back seat to keywords and information. Otherwise, the article would be buried in a search engine.

In a nutshell, people read magazines, stories, watch television and movies, and listen to music for entertainment. When they do online searches, they aren’t really looking to be entertained. They want information.

Learn, Learn, Learn

No matter how brilliant of a print writer you are, writing for the Internet is a whole new ballgame. There are new rules – and they can change quickly. You can take your career to the next level and expand from print markets to online markets. Just do your homework and stay in-the-know about what search engines are doing. If you don’t, you won’t be successful at online writing.

Recommended Reading

For more information and advice on online writing, take a look at the following books:

The Complete Guide to Article Writing
Writing Online: Write Your Dreams To Reality
Online Journalism: Reporting, Writing, and Editing for New Media

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