Journalists get a bum rap these days if they don’t “write for the Web” in an optimized manner, or if they write stories that are too long and detailed (I still miss the twenty-page profiles of Amazon butterflies in The New Yorker from decades past).
There are just too many rules about writing, these days. We have all of the Twitter-pated editors and publishers spewing out 140-word stuff, which is sometimes nonsense (I am guilty of this, too—felt kind of dumb last weekend, so I tweeted about the weather).
So I guess—as a businessperson with a J-degree—I pity the journalist who is being bombarded with figuring out ways to make a buck. It used to be that they could write smart things and the sales folk would sell blank pages. Agencies demanded far forward or negotiated being opposite something; it didn’t much matter what was on the blank ad pages. Audience relevance was assured because the editors filled up the edit well with relevance, and there was a BPA audit that assured they got to the right people (disclosure—I am on the BPA board). Now, they have to be contextually relevant and all that jazz.
Then they have to tweet, Facebook and Link In (out?) to the community that isn’t necessarily the community that they used to write for; who took an annual subscription to the magazine but have been acquired through SEO, nurturing and mollycoddling but are, alas, anonymous. That is, until you convert them to register, which they are loathe to do as they found you by mistake. But they can be counted and even audited, and even though they won’t mail IN a bingo card, they fill OUT bingo cards (you hope) online. And then, Gadzooks, you have a lead that someone has to follow up on, but not by a salesperson—but by a technological something or other.
Which gets back to the LEAD (not the lead)—that journalistic introduction to 200 words or 20,000 words.
How about a new kind of lead that can be repurposed to social: The combined Twitter and Haiku lead. Perhaps a Twitku?
Warren Bimblick is senior vice president, strategy and business development, at Penton Media. Follow him on Twitter @wbimblick.