Improve your storytelling abilities: exploite the differences between print and online journalism

Various fundamental differences (and similarities) exist between online and print, when working as a journalist in today’s multifaceted media milieu. When we use these differences and similarities to our advantage, we improve our ability to tell stories.

Keep in mind that though online media is all the rage, South Africa’s digital divide is undeniable.  Many citizens are still unwilling or unable to access online media and depend on print to stay informed.

My grandmother for instance owns a cell phone, but she never uses it for news updates. For her, nothing beats the smell and feel of a good old newspaper. On the other hand you have my cousin who does everything with newspapers besides read them: covers her books, washes her windows, puts it at the bottom of the budgies’ cage etc.

So do yourself a favour and forget about the online versus print debate. Instead, use both mediums and play to their respective strengths.

However DO NOT (like various South African publications) write and publish something for traditional print and simply copy and paste it to an online platform. Rather follow these easy tips on how to publish online.

10 Things to do when publishing online

  • Less is more. Write short powerful sentences.
Fight the urge to frantically type whatever comes to mind.
  • Make use of colour (but not too much). Traditional print is limited, but not online mediums.

  • Tell your story using visual aids like pictures and videos
  • Be first. Online journalism is immediate and thus great for breaking news. Remember how the Oscar saga was broke on twitter. 
  • If you cannot break the news, you need to be in-depth or add a different spin to what has already been said.

  • There are endless possibilities when it comes to things you can click on there, so a catchy title is a must
  • Avoid vague descriptions for titles. You reader should know what to expect
Say no to ambiguous titles!
  • Lists (not unlike this one) are a great way to make information digestible.
  • Make sure that whatever you post online is interactive. People love to convey their opinions or share their personal experiences. Interactive maps and linking stories to Facebook or Twitter are also great ideas

Feel free to add any other helpful tips on how to publish online. While you at it, you can also follow me on Twitter @Sherlin_Barends


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