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5 Marketing skills that digital journalists will need

How do you horrify a tough editor? Just let him know that an inviolate grammar rule no longer matters. When the Associated Press told editors at the American Copy Editors Society conference that it was removing the distinction between “more than” and “over” from its style guidelines, there was an audible gasp in the room.

Change. We can’t seem to stop it. We’re in the midst of the greatest disruption in communication since the invention of the printing press, however, and the style book isn’t all that’s changing. As Pew reports in its latest State of the Media report, thousands of traditional journalists are migrating to digital news outlets. As they do, they’re going to need to acquire new skills that enable their stories to thrive in the digital world.

I’ve written before about the journalism skills that will help digital marketers become better brand journalists, and also about how the journalist’s code of ethics should apply to content marketing. As the lines between the professions blur, journalists can also learn from digital marketers.

Here are just a few of our skills that journalists will find useful:

  • How to Write Headlines that Click. In traditional journalism, news stories get headlines that are clear and direct. That’s not the right strategy for digital news, however. Buzzfeed, a digital-only news outlet, has perfected the art of writing headlines that entices people to read the stories behind them. (I dare you to tell me that “Just Some Pictures of Metal Dudes – and Their Cats” doesn’t intrigue you!) This is the kind of headline writing that drives traffic.
  • How to Optimize Your Copy. Journalists will also need at least a basic understanding of search engine optimization and how to write copy that will appear at the top of search results.
  • How to Tell a Visual Story. Last year, the Chicago Sun-Times let its staff of photographers go. Instead, reporters were asked to carry cameras on assignment. Although the paper eventually rehired some of the photographers, the implication for the profession was clear: Digital-only news reporters will need writing, photography, and video skills. Rich media plays an important role in attracting and keeping the interest of readers.
  • How to Read the Data. News content is under constant scrutiny – by digital marketers and advertisers whose ad buys are revenue sources for digital news outlets. Journalists will need to understand what the data from Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Twitter Analytics means and how it can be used to create content that people will read.
  • How to Create Social Content. In traditional news outlets, before digital editions, journalists simply submitted their story and let the news outlet handle distribution. Today, distribution is everyone’s responsibility. Knowing how to write short, conversational posts that drive social traffic to the stories will be an essential skill.

In the latest State of the Media report, Pew identified 468 digital native news outlets and attributed 5,000 full-time editorial jobs to these organizations. Although many of these outlets are hiring a mix of legacy and non-legacy journalists, there is one skill that might not be as easy for the legacy journalists to learn: digital instinct.

Perhaps Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney summed it up best when he told Pew: “The training of traditional journalism is not perfectly suited to what digital audiences are looking to read.”

Fortunately for journalists, there’s a wealth of digital marketing education on blogs like this one.

photo credit: via photopin

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