From Guthenberg to blockchain. Musings on publishing and the editorial process.
Me anno 1998. The most creative time of my life. Yes, we published -even then. On paper.
Is there something to learn from a traditional publisher in the age of blockchain? Here are some of my thoughts on it. And some of the principles that guide my steeming.
First of all, this is a different ballgame. The newspaperdesk of the 90's is hardly a comparison to the social media craze of today. Steemit is however different in the way that it rewards content junkies more than the snapchat-like shitposts that flourishes. It is kind of interesting to see. And I've been thinking of my background that is from traditional publishing.
In every newspaper I ever got involved in there has been a mantra of tempo. The desk has it's obligation to catch the reader and there are several ways to do this. There has been studies showing this consistently that the lighter, smaller pieces are consistently read and remembered more so than the heavy articles. And remember: You are your own desk.
So what is "waltz tempo"?
It is heavy-light-light. In the editorial process it translates to striving for two light articles for every major headline article. I try to accomplish this by posting some videos or some nice-to-know stuff. And then try to focus on the next major article that might involve research and more thinking. I have a few ideas that are still in the back of my mind, that needs to mature before I either let them die or go ahead and do them.
I couldn't spend 3 hours on every piece I write. I would never get through it. It is also worth mentioning that some of the images I publish took me hours to first acquire and then retouch, store and maintain the library. I have tons of them and luckily we are past the stage in computing where assets were stored on optical discs. It is most definitely easier. Still. Some of them needs to be exposed alone, not in lengthy articles.
So don't underestimate the light pieces. They are valuable in their ability to be remembered by the reader. Waltz tempo is good. And I find it works also in this setting
Build expectations with the headline
"It's going to the MOOON" Is a typical example of a headline I see often. The natural question is what exactly is "going to the moon"? Not knowing, I'm most likely better rewarded by going to the next headline.
It is surprising to see how many that skips the chance to at least be read by at least trying to
- create expectation
- describe what to expect
The expectation is crucial if your effort pays off or not. If I find that I spent 3 min reading -or even worse, watching a video, that did not meet the expectation, I would be pissed. I might even say that it was waste of my time. And to the youtubers that might read this, some of you owe me upvotes for enduring your lengthy, badly scripted and waste-of-my-time content. Some even don't care and record in their car! Without a script and without anything newsworthy other than showing their nose one more time. There is by my estimation 80% of the youtubers here that should make headlines like: "I look cool in sunglasses -buy ethereum!" or "Get into this ICO -while I drive by a gas station". It would be more honest and more likely to not make me angry For wasting my time.
Creating expectation to make people read and not disappointing by not meeting the expectation should be common sense. But I see daily authors that miss the opportunity to get more exposure through the critical first impression.
I might add that as a typographer I miss the opportunity to use type to enhance my message. Maybe if we want it, it could be implemented at a future stage. For now -use the extra minute to choose your first impression wisely.
Let your piece "breathe"
Especially when it is a lengthy one. Let it be a natural flow and break up lengthy paragraphs into natural stops. Outline the article and fill in information as needed.
Don't fall for the temptation to use headline tags in body text. There is enough shouting here and reading body text with headline tags is generally something that underlines your attention-seeking intention. It's difficult to read and takes up too much space on small screens.
Use italic bold and bold italic sparingly. Too much and it just gets tiering to read. Trust body text. It is the most effective way to read and I think italics and bold should only make up 5% of the text -if any. I use it for emphasizing keywords and to guide the reader. If I even bother.
Breaking up long pieces of text with images is a good idea if you put some thought into what images to choose, even better. I'm not good at markdown, so I don't bother to place much images. But with a little practice, everyone can make fun, entertaining, rich illustrated articles. And using your own images is a huge plus.
Outline your message first
Outlining the logic of your piece is good for several reasons. It helps you in your train-of-thought process to get through a open question through discussion to a conclusion. Admittedly there are several occasions where your knowledge and expertise is so great that it just comes naturally. But for most of us, writing down which topics to cover and in which order lifts the impact of your efforts. It does not have to be very detailed. With my typographic background, the subtitles is my way of doing it, but five minutes and some scribbeling on a piece of paper might suit you better.
Just make sure your reader understands there is some logic to it.
Steemit categorises topics by their first tag. Get it RIGHT!
Imagine your wedding photos placed among the obituaries. It would not look good. So pick the first tag with huge attention to your potential new readers. It might even get flagged if you tag it wrong. Don't fall for the temptation to use popular tags just because it is popular. It might just ruin your effort. The crypto-crowd would certainly hate to find a piece on gardening.
Add additional tags as you see fit. In a worst case, you can change them later. You can however NOT change the first tag. So choose it wisely.