Writing On The Internet

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I once heard a magazine editor say that he expected authors to spend hours working on stories and refining their ideas before submitting a pitch.

And while this isn’t true of all print publications, it speaks to the high expectations many print editors have when evaluating new ideas.

Reading multi-page articles online can be a frustrating challenge, but taking in longform content in print, or at least on an e-reader, tends to be much more enjoyable.

Great longform journalism still gets published on the web every day, but it often comes from outlets traditionally known for print.

And for every story I write, I make sure the scope of the subject matter fits within those standards.

The sourcing requirements for print outlets can be so stringent that I often joke a print writer must quote a professional astronomer before claiming that the sun will rise in the morning.While readers may stare at their computer monitors all day, they rarely focus on a single article for more than a minute or two.That’s why the vast majority of what’s written for the Internet is under 1,000 words.When I spoke to my colleagues who write for print, I almost got the impression they were working in an entirely different industry—and possibly on a different planet.Suffice it to say, Hilton is wrong: There are plenty of differences between writing online and writing for print when it comes to factors like style, sourcing, and payment protocol.Try that online and, within minutes, you will be barraged in the comments sections by knowledgeable readers and trolls alike.Readers still have the opportunity to engage with print writers over social media, but online readers can comment on the writer’s work just below the article itself, where their opinions are much harder to ignore.When I heard Spud Hilton, the travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, once say there is no difference between writing for online and print publications, I nearly fell out of my chair.It was 2012, and I had just started writing full time about travel and personal finance, almost entirely for online outlets.And for some digital publications, editors even demand that writers participate and respond to questions and constructive criticism.For example, I recently wrote an article for The Points Guy about the credit card benefits offered to active duty members of the military, and several commentators immediately pointed to personal experiences that contradicted what I had written.


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