Where is writing going now?

Cat reading written text on computer screen

“I know there’s a catnip supplier in here SOMEWHERE…dratted copywriters!” Image courtesy of Infographe Elle, Morguefile.

Over in one of my LinkedIn discussion groups, there’s been an interesting debate going on about the nature of copywriting and what it really is. Copywriters and digital strategists from all over the world have been weighing in with their opinions, some more passionately than others.

Since I began this blog, I’ve been asked by several people about what it’s like to be a professional copywriter. Traditional copywriting for printed materials (such as a magazine ad, a flyer or a newsletter story) involves several elements: an original and attention-grabbing headline that explains the benefits of a product or service to the reader, some body copy that covers the advantages of whatever you’re selling and a call to action at the end. (See my previous post, There’s no copying in copywriting.)

The debate got started when the person posting the discussion referred to “simple copywriters”. That’s just it; good copywriting isn’t simple and is acquired with experience. It takes a mixture of being clever with words, determining who is the target audience, matching the tone of your message to suit that audience and determining what they would want to know about your product or service. You also have to know the product/service inside and out to be able to discuss its merits and ensure that what you say is consistent with a company’s brand and marketing strategy.

But now, I’m of the opinion that writing rules have expanded. Creating websites, personal blogs, business blogs, Twitter tweets and other material intended strictly for publication on the Web requires different writing techniques, as well as familiarity with different social media platforms and knowledge of SEO (search engine optimization). You still need to know the conventional rules of copywriting (know your audience, know your product/service, write well, etc.) but you should also have a knowledge of social media culture/etiquette and how to make the search engines find what you write if your material is going onto the Web.

And that’s what I told my discussion group. The debate is still going on.

So now there are more writing professions than ever, thanks to the Web and the insatiable need for information. You can be a book author, a copywriter, a journalist working in TV, magazines or newspapers, an online journalist, a Web content writer, a personal blogger, a business blogger or a mix of these. LOVE IT!

Blog readers, your opinions?

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13 Comments

Filed under Writing

13 responses to “Where is writing going now?

  1. All aspects of writing fascinate me. Having owned a small business I know first-hand the profound impact of how words can sell a product or service. The Internet has forever changed the way and means of communication from advertising to promoting to creative expression. Simply stated: it’s not that simple anymore.

    • Each form of communication (magazines, newspapers, blogs, press releases, etc.) is different and the message needs to be adapted to that medium. That’s why some companies fail in social media, because they don’t understand that principle. Arrrgh. 😦

  2. I want to be the writer who reviews all things relating to chocolate (except ants). Definitely having SEO knowledge helps these days. The greatest article in the world won’t be seen by anyone otherwise.

  3. When my son was very little, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a copywriter. He told his teacher I made copies at the copy machine for a living.

  4. Paul Heitman

    Reblogged this.

  5. Where I think writing is going? I think the field will diverge more. The internet is a black hole that you can stuff all possible content into and it will never get full. As such, I think we can expect to see more people who create content, and some of those will choose the medium of the written word.

    At the same time as we’d see an increase in quantity, the quality of what we see will likely keep in line with a normal bell curve. I look at Elance and Odesk and the ‘gigs’ section of Craigslist and see a world of work offered at prices people can only assume are reasonable if they think that writing a postcard on occasion is the same as being a writer. On the other hand, the accessibility of the online realm can provide a stage to those who might not have been picked up by the more traditional channels, but still bring quality writing into this world. I expect the future of writing to bring a bit more of the horrific, a bit more of the fabulous and a whole pile of the unremarkable and average.

    Where I hope writing is going is something else entirely. I hope writing becomes a skill that increases in standing. I hope that people learn to see the difference between journalism and propaganda, between semi-automated SEO-driven word spew and well-crafted copy and between writing and text on a page.

    One can always dream.

  6. You are right. Digital forms of communication have opened up all sorts of opportunities for writers, but I imagine to make a living from your writing, you also have to have some kind of business sense. Someone with acumen in both is probably pretty rare.

  7. Smitten’s comment is wonderful.
    Anyone who says “simple copywriting” has never done it. It’s very complex and the writer must understand humans, the product/issue, vocabulary, and communication.
    To be a writer now is to have a wardrobe of writing skill for different projects. Variety can be fun.

    • True! But it’s also not a bad idea to have some cultural knowledge too, and to have some ideas about how people from different cultures react to different messages. Very useful to know when you’re writing for a certain market.

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