How do you write well-researched stories of substance while still getting people to read them? That’s the challenge of online journalism in the age of social media. The fact that many sites pay based on page views and ad revenues just ratchets up the pressure. Yet, through trial and error (more errors than I care to admit!) I’ve managed to research, write, and enticingly package articles that got read by thousands, tens-of-thousands, and (on rare occasions) millions.
It’s not like back when our parents bought a newspaper and simply read it. Now, we’ve got dozens of enticing snippets jamming our feeds and inboxes. So how do you get people to read about dry (but important!) topics like stochastic terrorism, Reaganomics, or climate change? Lure them in with an attention-grabbing title and preview image… Then deliver the compelling story your title and preview image promised. (Pro tip: tying your article in with a trending news topic gives you a boost for both search and social media.)
For example… Terrifying New Map Shows What May Be Left Of Florida As Sea Levels Rise got people’s attention. And, Hey Main Stream Media, This Man Is Not A “Gunman.” He’s A Terrorist got way more views and engagement than 5 Ways the Republican Party Promotes Stochastic Terrorism.
But garden-variety click bait’s not enough… At least not for me. I work hard to offer something readers can’t get somewhere else. I start out by finding a fresh angle and doing my research. I also try to have mercy on my readers’ eyes. It’s harder to read on a computer screen than on paper. That’s why I break up the text and lead people through stories with lots of subheads, images, videos, and other rich media.
Writing Samples for Online Journalism
I should also mention… The websites I wrote for had hundreds of thousands — sometimes millions — of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. When it comes to curating, creating, and packaging content, I learned from the best. My former employers at Addicting Info, Reverb Press, and American News X built their followings organically and from scratch. Below are samples of some of my top-performing posts that I’m most proud of. When available, I provide live links.