Tag Archives: tips

How to become a journalist: act like one

Every time someone asks me how I got into journalism, I usually trot out the same words of advice: write, submit, write, submit, write…you get the picture.

My point being that no matter what your qualifications or experience, if you write an article and the editor you submit it to likes what he or she reads, then you’re in.

Formal qualifications do matter in some lines of specialist reporting (ie having a science degree clearly helps when writing for New Scientist). But if you have a talent for writing must read copy, then you’re most of the way there.

Students I speak to tend to stuck on the ‘submit’ bit of my ‘write, submit’ mantra. Pre-2000, I always recommended emailing, posting or faxing (remember that?) content in to editors for consideration. Since 2000, I’ve added forum posting and blogging to the list.

The power of how contributing to blogs alone can boost your career prospects in journalism is emphasised by people like Cath Elliott, who was first ‘talent spotted’ on the Guardian’s Comment is Free portal as a commenter. According to the Guardian, her comments has such insight and thoughtfulness that she was invited to become a contributor.

Of course, some may argue that Cath isn’t a journalist but a blogger. But what is a journalist these days? Two things might sway this debate: a) the blog platform is owned by a major national newspaper and b) at any time, her content has the potential to make it into the print newspaper or ‘official’ Guardian news site. So – is Cath a journalist?

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A day in the life of a Forrester web analyst

A brilliant blog post as ever by Jeremiah, an analyst at research firm Forrester. When does the guy get to sleep exactly? Read more on how Jeremiah spends his time as an analyst

His favourite site? Of all the hundreds of cutting edge websites out there, what did he pick? Drumroll…Twitter.com. Who’da thunk it? An oldie, but still a goodie.

Big site / trend he’s watching? OpenSocial. Big, big changes in store says Jermiah, especially as more content led sites add more social elements to their websites. We agree. Just wish it would all happen quicker.

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Copywriters: add cents (ie pennies) to all money saving ads

According to advice on MarketingSherpa, it’s better to add the cents / pennies to an ad so users feel they’re getting more value for money. Like the user in some way glosses over the decimal point…

Is this utter hogwash? And does including an exclamation mark in copy to give! it! more! impact! fill you with as much dread as it does us? Read the MarketingSherpa article.

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What makes a successful social marketing campaign?

Evan Gerber provides some good common sense advice on social media marketing in iMedia Connection.

In summary:

  • Don’t do social marketing unless it’s part of a larger campaign
  • Don’t do it unless you’re offering users something truly worth visiting – more than once
  • Don’t do it unless you have resource to update and communicate with users
  • Be aware that users don’t want too many widgets or Facebook apps on their page
  • Weigh up the short term benefits with the long term maintenance requirements

Read ‘Avoid these Facebook faux pas‘ in full.

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Telegraph digital strategy for news – all editors use ‘the grid’

Nothing to do with the Matrix, but everything to do with common sense in an integrated news gathering operation.

The Telegraph even gives its editors guidance on what to do on what platform, when news breaks – e.g. 10 mins after news breaks, write 150 words on the web. After an hour, write 450 words and so on.

Read more about the Telegraph’s digital news output strategy – via journalism.co.uk

Web copywriting tips – reduce your home page text with the ellipsis

Having trouble cramming in all the vital editorial on a homepage? Then fear not…the ellipsis is for you.

So says Anne Holland, the Content Director of MarketingSherpa.com who suggests that copywriters use ellipsis on their homepages. It can even prove a useful alternative to bullet lists.

Hmm. We assume this means only in certain circumstances?

Using the ellipsis in a commercial / formal environment could be like using parenthesis – a bit lazy and a sign that the copy needs to be revisited.

We can’t see the marketing director at British Airways or the editor of General Medical Council going for something like this. Would it instil 100 per cent confidence in a user if they were visiting a website for the first time?

We’re not sold on this…but we’ll steal the idea anyhow…only for informal or chatty websites of course.

Wonder what search engines make of the ellipsis?

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How to create a content matrix – advice


A good content matrix can make all the difference when launching a website. Given that delays in content production is often cited as one of the most common reasons a launch date slips, it can even have a positive effect on your career. As in not being sacked.

A content matrix, usually an Excel spreadsheet, ensures the smooth running of the content production or migration process.

The matrix is managed by a content editor, producer or project manager and aims to track all elements of the content development process, page by page.

Used in conjunction with sitemaps and wireframes (preferably ones which have been signed off) , the matrix includes elements such as a page’s title, description and purpose, production status, related links and micro-content like metadata and alt text.

It should also detail who will be providing the content, the content source, who owns the content, any sign off processes, language or format information and, most importantly, all deadlines for delivery.

If you detail all of the above, you should have a clear critical path of content delivery and launch the site on time.