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Writing for digital versus print media

Asheen Raven
posted on 20th December 2016
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We are in the middle of a huge transition period when it comes to how we consume information. Humanity took a great leap forward with the invention of the printing press in 1440, but it is now slowly being rendered obsolete by the advent of the internet era.

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Nowadays, you don’t have to rely on a wide variety of newspapers and magazines to have an understanding about what’s going on in the world. People use a smartphone, or computers, with internet access to read up about current affairs, news, and topics of interest.

In fact, it is estimated that up to 500 million Indians will be using smartphones by 2020.

However, this doesn’t change the whole essence of writing. There are certain golden rules for writing which will not change with the shift to digital media. Plagiarism remains a cardinal sin, thorough research will continue to be the foundation of arguments made, and the elegance of good writing will continue to enchant.

That being said, as the mode of consumption changes, so does the method of conveyance. One of the big changes is the fact that digital media needs to convey more information using lesser words. Digital writing has to pack more of a punch, because the reader now has a wide plethora of options which are all just a click away.

Keeping it short, simple, and to the point is key when it comes to writing for an online market. Paragraphs should be no longer than four or five lines, language should be clear and crisp, and unnecessary verbosity must be avoided.

This brevity of course doesn’t mean that you compromise on information, which brings us to another important aspect of digital writing ‑ hyperlinking.

While writing for print, you can present your article and then maybe add something at the bottom about another piece you’ve written, the source of the information or any interesting tidbit.

However, when writing for digital media, all you have to do is hyperlink to a relevant part of the article. The reader immediately checks the link you’ve suggested.

A reader who wants a more comprehensive picture about a particular topic can now easily get all he needs to know from just one article, provided that it links back to as many relevant articles as possible.

This helps you attract readers who have a keen interest in the topic, as well as cater to those with a passing interest and the base audience of readers who are just browsing through.

Another important aspect of digital writing is packaging and structure. There are several formats one can use, but the ultimate aim is to make the article attractive and interactive.

It is important to keep in mind that digital media hasn’t completely erased print media off the face of the earth. In fact, if a large proportion of your target audience include those who aren’t internet savvy or are disinclined towards technology, then you must pay attention to creating content exclusively for print media as well.

There are mixed opinions about whether shifting to digital media from print is a good thing or not. The nostalgia attached to reading the paper in the morning or curling up with a good book means that the printed word isn’t facing extinction just yet.

It isn’t just old fashioned romanticism that is keeping print media alive. The industry is actually coming up with new and innovative ways to engage with the audience.

At the end of the day, the written world will always be one of the most powerful means of communication, be it print or digital media. Words have the power to paint a picture inside our minds akin to nothing else, and the written word will continue to endure through the tests of time.

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