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Online Writing and Beyond: Writers Will Lead the Content Revolution

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Introduction

It is often thrown around loosely on the web that “Content is king.”

If content is king, then what is a content writer?

Unfortunately, we are not yet royalty. We’re never paid as well or considered as skilled as a web designer or our more technical counterparts. This is changing, however, with an influx of writing for the web courses and the frenzy of corporate training in writing for the web. Training an already overworked, understaffed web team to write specifically for the web is costly and distracts technical workers from updating their ever-changing, ever-evolving techie skills. And then there is the whole left-brain, right-brain trap. Technical workers usually work from the left side of their brain, programming ASP and javascript. Designers use the right side of their brain to apply design elements to the technical aspects, such as forms and web sites.

Good writers are already gifted in using a voice that reaches their audience clearly and effectively. Content writers work behind the scenes to help websites retain and expand their readership, sales, and visits by offering articles, sales copy, email outreach, and other types of writing to enhance a web site’s overall “stickiness”. The basic premise behind content writing is that without content, a website creates no reason for a customer to return. And it’s much easier to get a customer to return than to visit the site in the first place. The web is still referred to as the “information superhighway”, and millions of users expect their information for free.

Where Writers Fit In

Ultimately, it is not “Content is King.” As readers adapt and change their uses and needs on the web, it is clear that really, the users are king and queen. Providing fresh and interactive content is simply the role content writers undertake. This is similar to the role of jesters, caterers, tutors, and playhouses to our royal readers. (Online books have failed thus far primarily for this reason; much of the content isn’t uniquely informing and the format doesn’t make an enjoyable read. How can somebody enjoy reading over 50 pages of boring, painful-to-read Adobe- Acrobat text?)

Content writers entertain, refresh, inform, educate and expand the world of their readers through writing. Those of us who write and love writing understand that the essence of writing is invoke emotion, take your reader “another world”, inform them or prompt them to action. Combine the passion for writing with the need for content on the web, and a writer can have it all. Not only can a writer fulfill these needs, but also the web writer can achieve a coveted, long-lasting goal for every website; compel the reader to interact.

Writers Engaging Readers

As more forms of entertainment move online, more unique ways of fulfilling their goals will surface. Some of the most popular websites today begin with a little content and build a community. Community-based websites not only have online writers, but also provide a forum for their users to interact to the content. Building conflict and community can engage your readers in such a way that they no longer feel like readers, but an audience. Members of an audience can applaud, converse, heckle and cheer when appropriate. By encouraging the use of a message board or other interactive media, readers return to see what the next day, week, or month will bring. They “get in on a piece of the action”.

More and more websites are creating audiences rather than readers, and writers are helping them through polls, feedback forms, and message boards. However, it seems that the web has not completely transformed the web into a completely interactive medium yet. Content writers will create a way to force the reader not to be an audience, but a part of the play. As a writer, I think that we’ll give audiences more and more room to interact and influence actual events and mediums.

Where We’ll Take Content Writing

In the future, I see nonfiction e-books allowing readers to pick and choose chapters based on their skill and knowledge levels. Students will be able to skip the grammar review in an online textbook if they feel their skills are up to par or took an online skill test to “test-out”. Web designers will skip the HTML basics and move straight to HTML 5.0 new features and XML. Writers will be writing both for a general audience and a skilled audience, and readers will participate in the process by choosing the specific information they need. “Take what you need and leave the rest” will be the new online writing mantra. Contentville.com already did this (although they are now defunct) with a huge database of articles, thesis papers, and other formerly print media that readers pay a small fee to read. Others are following this pattern. This market will expand and readers will only pay for what they get.

In the fiction market, readers will be taken to the next level of participation by finding not only a choice of characters, plots, and settings through interactive websites and media, but through a Choose-

Your-Own Adventure type of structure. Similar to online games, users will be able to choose Jane’s physical traits and John’s personality, and set the story into sequence at a setting of their choice. They will choose their favorite outcomes in their online soap operas. (No more, “No! John! You should have married Mary, not left her for Margaret! She’s evil!”)

As for the writers? We won’t have to choose the perfect beginning, middle, or end anymore. We won’t have to decide on one specific audience. We’ll be writing for all cultures, all ages, and all interest levels. Where content is king, we’ll be the knights in shining armor, rescuing the reader from the boring, redundant, or irrelevant web reading and the writing of yesteryear.

Oh, yeah, and we’ll be paid as well as the Duke of Earl.

*This article originally appeared in Web Writing Buzz Newsletter in April of 2000.

Melissa Brewer is a freelance writer specializing in online content.
She writes articles, tutorials, and online training materials for
corporate and small business clients. She has taught classes on web
writing in the past and recently published an eBook for writers: The
Writer’s Online Survival Guide, containing over 230 writing-specific
job sources for writers online. She hosts a website for writers, the
Web Writing Buzz, at

http://sites.hsprofessional.com/webbuzz/index.html

and publishes a corresponding newsletter with tips, resources, and
jobs for writers at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/webwritingbuzz/.

Online Writing and Beyond: Writers Will Lead the Content Revolution
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About Melissa Brewer
Melissa Brewer is a freelance writer specializing in online content. She writes articles, tutorials, and online training materials for corporate and small business clients. She has taught classes on web writing in the past and recently published an eBook for writers: The Writer's Online Survival Guide, containing over 230 writing-specific job sources for writers online. She hosts a website for writers, the Web Writing Buzz, at http://sites.hsprofessional.com/webbuzz/index.html and publishes a corresponding newsletter with tips, resources, and jobs for writers at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/webwritingbuzz/. WebProNews Writer


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