Tag Archives: Links

Two excellent reads on the changing nature of sub-editing

Both of these were spotted by Richard Cosgrove on the Subs UK forum:

Copy editing: It’s taught me a lot, but it has to change
Over in the US, Steve Buttry has some advice for copy editors seeking to contribute to Digital First newsrooms and some copy editing tips for all journalists.

The corrections column co-editor on… the changing role of the subeditor

On the Guardian site, Barbara Harper writes about the news skills subs need to learn and their competition from new applicants who are technically adept but without the sub-editing training. She says:

A subeditor preparing an article for our website will, among other things, be expected to write headlines that are optimised for search engines so the article can be easily seen online, add keywords to make sure it appears in the right places on the website, create packages to direct readers to related articles, embed links, attach pictures, add videos and think about how the article will look when it is accessed on mobile phones and other digital platforms.

After running the digital skills workshop for subs (slides are here) last weekend, I feel happy that I have directed them with up-to-date guidelines for online sub-editing. I don’t work on newspaper online sites so I did wonder if they face different or more discrete tasks. But it seems we are all in this together and that a standard role may be forming. For now, at least.

Does anyone else find it ironic that subs can’t agree a style on their job title by the way? Sub-editor or subeditor? And let’s not even get started with why proofreading doesn’t get a hyphen…

Starter kit: how to blog for your company

Here are the quick links to my Blogger’s Style Guide. This is the ‘how-to’ that I give to my company bloggers when they start writing posts for their employer’s blog. It acts as a support document for those who know their subject well, but know little about blog writing or publishing in general.

The Blogger’s Style Guide

  1. How is blogging different?
  2. What readers like / ideas for your posts
  3. How to structure long posts
  4. Short or long?
  5. What does SEO mean for writers?
  6. Links are good!
  7. Five tips on tone
  8. Comments and feedback
  9. Writing a good title
  10. Don’t fall foul of your boss – or the law!

Blogger’s style guide: Links are good!

Links are useful for the reader and vital for SEO – read my previous post on SEO for why that is – but they are also useful shortcuts for you as a writer.

For example….

Want to link to a quick explanation of what you are talking about so you don’t have to rehash it all yourself? Found something interesting elsewhere that you want to write about? Are you mentioning a previous post or a survey and need to source it?

Then use a hyperlink.

Linking is a way for readers to jump out of your post to context, explanation or source material. It adds value to your post and also saves you including reams of information or explanation.

Here’s how to link. Just highlight the words you want to turn into a link and then click the ‘chain tool’ or ‘add link’ button in your blog platform or CMS. A box will pop up for you to paste the link into. Make sure you include the ‘http://’ bit or the link won’t work.

If you are presenting work in a Word document, then underline the relevant words and paste the link just after them so whoever is uploading knows what should link. I’ve used an example in the blurb below.

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]

Blogger’s style guide: What does SEO mean for writers?

Search engine optimisation is the quick answer. But what does that actually mean for you when you are writing your post?

Some people will come to read your post by looking around on the blog. But the majority of readers will come to it via search engines such as Google. They will have typed in relevant words, and if those ‘keywords’ match your words/subject, then your post is likely to appear in the search results. If you want your writing to be found, you have to think a little bit about SEO.

So here’s my fastest-ever, two-point guide to SEO:

  1. Make sure you write out IN FULL the names of people (ie, first and last name) and the titles of things/products rather than writing generically, eg, ‘the Sale of Goods Act says…’, rather than just ‘the law says…’. Ask yourself if there several relevant words or international translations? If so include them, eg, swine flu, H1N1, flu, pandemic; sub-editor (UK) and copy editor (US).
  2. Secondly, write useful and engaging posts that other people want to link to. Incoming links raise the SEO value of  your post, lifting it higher up the search results. You should do the same with your posts. Linking out to other online places creates a sense of your site being an information hub and this will also encourage inbound links. (More on linking in the next post.)

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]

Pick of the links (12 Feb-22 Sept 2009)

      Journalist, train thyself! Online needs you… desperately!

      A few days ago I was asked by The Jobless Journalist about the merging of reporting and subbing in an online environment… and should s/he as a reporter (with some subbing experience) apply for sub-editing roles.

      Well, the digital skills gap has been a source of frustration for me for a few months now so I’m afraid the subject rather got me going… it’s very much from a client publishing perspective rather than a multimedia newsroom but here’s the transcript.

      And if you don’t want to read 1200 words on future-subbing, then the short version is nicely SEO’d into the header above.

      Do you see the divide between reporter and sub lessening with online journalism, ie a reporter needs to be able to sub as content is uploaded directly online?

      Firstly, good on you for blogging about this. Not only are you engaging a load of other journalists who are probably pretty damn worried about their trade and their future, but you are opening up many more potential job opportunities for yourself by engaging in the culture of online and learning the skills of digital publishing.

      Oh and unless someone’s radically altering your post and headlines, you’re already both reporting and subbing, yes?

      Right now, you’re working out for yourself what works in this environment copywise, headlinewise, structurewise. In blogging at least, reporting and subbing tend to be integrated (along with photography, IT skills and social media basics).

      Which kind of answers your question on the divide between reporter and sub in online environments. Divide? What divide?

      The divide is less about reporting versus subbing, imho, and more about are you engaged or not, are you digitally included or not.

      By not engaging more in online environments, traditional journalists are not developing their digital writing or subbing skills, let alone all the other skills that go with publishing to the Web, like:

      • picture research under Creative Commons licences
      • image manipulation
      • linking skills
      • SEO knowledge
      • how to upload and promote content
      • and the big one: the ability to deal with readers talking back to you.

      It is an ongoing frustration in my line of work – currently web editor/corporate blogger – that people say they want to work online but don’t have a blog, Twitter account, Tumblr or Posterous, and don’t use feeds, social bookmarking, alerts and other tools to help them be a journalist online.

      It’s like trying to write a news story but only occasionally reading a newspaper. Just having a Facebook page isn’t enough, because your readers online will know more than you – and they’ll let you know it.

      I came across a great quote to illustrate this in the Top 10 Lies Newspaper Execs are Telling Themselves:

      Until you have a blog, a Twitter feed and a Facebook account and until you are reading most of your news online and commenting on what you read, until you are all over Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, iGoogle, Netvibes and the like, until you can actually explain to me how online CPM-based advertising works, until you can explain how SEO and SEM work, until you know what “pwnd” means, until you know the significance of the 3 Wolf Moon or 3 Cat Keyboard t-shirt, you don’t know what you don’t know.

      You are competing with the very people who created the Internet.  Increasingly, you are competing with the generation who grew up online.   How can you possibly be so arrogant that you think you can compete in that world without becoming a part of it?

      I’ve been actively looking to hire digital subs and SEO-trained writers in the last six months – but I’ve struggled to find people who are really digitally engaged. I sometimes wonder if it’s because journalists tend to rely on mammoth publishing organisations for training. They are not used to going out there and training themselves. (This is where freelances have an advantage – we are used to self-development because it’s a generous publisher who will pay for our training.)

      This presents great opportunities for reporters and subs who are looking for online work because in online publishing there is no set path in… at least for the moment while universities get to grips with how to train up the journalists of the future and those who are traditional print journalists move from shock at their industry collapsing either to engaging with the new medium or perhaps, resentfully, having it foisted upon them on top of their usual work.

      No one can prescribe you a way into a job in online journalism. No one is asking you to train as a reporter first and perhaps later, when you’ve learnt how to write in a certain style, then train as a sub. There is no discrete set of jobs in online publishing – unless you count the way the digital dept I work for is divided: web editor, developer, designer with a side order of subs who process print stuff easily but need to [find the time to] engage [in online culture] in order to ‘get’ online.

      From what I’ve read (mostly on teh Online Journalism Blog – and, subs, you can stet that ‘teh’ – it’s an online thang), reporters in multimedia newsrooms are being asked to sub their own work; meanwhile subs are being made redundant. How reporters are supposed to sub to old-school standards, perhaps with minimal experience or training, and 24-hour newsroom deadline pressures, should be interesting! Would love to be a fly on the wall of the 21st century newsroom. But just on a practical level, I know I find it hard to sub my own work, and I know I’m not alone in that.

      Then again, online environments are a different beast. It’s publish first, refine later. You may not be shot for a typo but you do need to know the pitfalls – particularly if you are working for a brand – and this is perfect sub-editor territory.

      Does this herald the death of the sub or will there always be the need for a second pair of eyes?

      Every bit of copy benefits from a second pair of eyes, imho. But the comments section can act as a rather more public second set of eyes, pointing out your typos and incorrect facts. In a way this is more transparent but it has its downsides.

      Personally, I’d love a sub to come along and clean up my typos, SEO my copy for me, add metadata to my content, suggest a better mobile-phone-surfer-headline, keep me out of court then social bookmark my content in relevant places and ways. In practice, this rarely happens – mainly due to the current digital skills gap.

      How does freelance subbing compare with a full-time subbing job. Which is easier to get into?
      You’re asking the wrong person here as a dedicated freelancer. Freelance subbing is the same for me as full-time subbing except you occasionally have to put up with the ‘just a freelance’ mentality of some employers, and you have to work the British summer as it’s peak time to cover holidays. The pay off is you can (potentially) take months off at a time to travel, write your novel, start a blog… 😉

      Easier to get into? Hard to say. The last year has been a difficult one for freelance subs definitely, although there seem to be a few green shoots of recovery around now. All I can say is, it takes balls and bluff to go straight into freelance subbing without having done a full-time stint somewhere first. And that budgets are moving online.

      In which case, the ‘jobless journalist’, who’s done a year’s subbing already, and is now visibly blogging for all the world to see, is perfectly positioned for hire.

      Good luck with the job search. I suspect and hope you won’t just be blogging for long.

      LATE ADD: I left my job last week to go freelance as a blogger and do more social media and content strategy ‘stuff’.  Sooo…. my agency is looking for web editors – check out the job advert if you’re interested. And if you’re a freelance sub/writer with a blog, Twitter account and a general immersion in online, then it may be worth sticking in a CV or a link to your site, too.

      Pick of the links (18 Nov-22 Jan 2009)