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Online Writing and Beyond: Writers Will Lead the Content Revolution

Introduction

It is often thrown around loosely on the web that "Content is king."

If content is king, then what is a content writer?

Unfortunately, we are not yet royalty. We're never paid as well or
considered as skilled as a web designer or our more technical
counterparts. This is changing, however, with an influx of writing
for the web courses and the frenzy of corporate training in writing
for the web. Training an already overworked, understaffed web team to
write specifically for the web is costly and distracts technical
workers from updating their ever-changing, ever-evolving techie
skills. And then there is the whole left-brain, right-brain trap.
Technical workers usually work from the left side of their brain,
programming ASP and javascript. Designers use the right side of their
brain to apply design elements to the technical aspects, such as
forms and web sites.

Good writers are already gifted in using a voice that reaches their
audience clearly and effectively. Content writers work behind the
scenes to help websites retain and expand their readership, sales,
and visits by offering articles, sales copy, email outreach, and
other types of writing to enhance a web site's overall "stickiness".
The basic premise behind content writing is that without content, a
website creates no reason for a customer to return. And it's much
easier to get a customer to return than to visit the site in the
first place. The web is still referred to as the "information
superhighway", and millions of users expect their information for
free.

Where Writers Fit In

Ultimately, it is not "Content is King." As readers adapt and change
their uses and needs on the web, it is clear that really, the users
are king and queen. Providing fresh and interactive content is simply
the role content writers undertake. This is similar to the role of
jesters, caterers, tutors, and playhouses to our royal readers.
(Online books have failed thus far primarily for this reason; much of
the content isn't uniquely informing and the format doesn't make an
enjoyable read. How can somebody enjoy reading over 50 pages of
boring, painful-to-read Adobe- Acrobat text?)

Content writers entertain, refresh, inform, educate and expand the
world of their readers through writing. Those of us who write and
love writing understand that the essence of writing is invoke
emotion, take your reader "another world", inform them or prompt them
to action. Combine the passion for writing with the need for content
on the web, and a writer can have it all. Not only can a writer
fulfill these needs, but also the web writer can achieve a coveted,
long-lasting goal for every website; compel the reader to interact.

Writers Engaging Readers

As more forms of entertainment move online, more unique ways of
fulfilling their goals will surface. Some of the most popular
websites today begin with a little content and build a community.
Community-based websites not only have online writers, but also
provide a forum for their users to interact to the content. Building
conflict and community can engage your readers in such a way that
they no longer feel like readers, but an audience. Members of an
audience can applaud, converse, heckle and cheer when appropriate. By
encouraging the use of a message board or other interactive media,
readers return to see what the next day, week, or month will bring.
They "get in on a piece of the action".

More and more websites are creating audiences rather than readers,
and writers are helping them through polls, feedback forms, and
message boards. However, it seems that the web has not completely
transformed the web into a completely interactive medium yet. Content
writers will create a way to force the reader not to be an audience,
but a part of the play. As a writer, I think that we'll give
audiences more and more room to interact and influence actual events
and mediums.

Where We'll Take Content Writing

In the future, I see nonfiction e-books allowing readers to pick and
choose chapters based on their skill and knowledge levels. Students
will be able to skip the grammar review in an online textbook if they
feel their skills are up to par or took an online skill test
to "test-out". Web designers will skip the HTML basics and move
straight to HTML 5.0 new features and XML. Writers will be writing
both for a general audience and a skilled audience, and readers will
participate in the process by choosing the specific information they
need. "Take what you need and leave the rest" will be the new online
writing mantra. Contentville.com already did this (although they are
now defunct) with a huge database of articles, thesis papers, and
other formerly print media that readers pay a small fee to read.
Others are following this pattern. This market will expand and
readers will only pay for what they get.

In the fiction market, readers will be taken to the next level of
participation by finding not only a choice of characters, plots, and
settings through interactive websites and media, but through a Choose-

Your-Own Adventure type of structure. Similar to online games, users
will be able to choose Jane's physical traits and John's personality,
and set the story into sequence at a setting of their choice. They
will choose their favorite outcomes in their online soap operas. (No
more, "No! John! You should have married Mary, not left her for
Margaret! She's evil!")

As for the writers? We won't have to choose the perfect beginning,
middle, or end anymore. We won't have to decide on one specific
audience. We'll be writing for all cultures, all ages, and all
interest levels. Where content is king, we'll be the knights in
shining armor, rescuing the reader from the boring, redundant, or
irrelevant web reading and the writing of yesteryear.

Oh, yeah, and we'll be paid as well as the Duke of Earl.

*This article originally appeared in Web Writing Buzz Newsletter in
April of 2000.

About the Author

Melissa Brewer is a full-time freelance writer and author of The
Writer's Online Survival Guide, available at
http://www.webwritingbuzz.com. She hosts a website for professional
freelance writers and she publishes a free weekly newsletter, The Web
Writing Buzz, featuring articles on freelancing, writing jobs and
publishing news from around the web.



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