5 easy ways to better produce an online story

writingonlineIt’s a rare TV newsroom that does not require its journalists to write a Web version of their stories.  Lynn Walsh, who produces multimedia for the Scripps National Digital Desk has done more than her fair share.

She offers some excellent tips for making sure those stories are viewed and enjoyed by more audience.  We’ve captured what we think is her best advice and supplemented it to create our Top 5.

1.  Think visuals

Don’t come back from the field without at least one good still shot from the scene.  You might take it with your smartphone or convert a video frame to a jpeg, but a story that includes a photo is going to look more attractive to the online viewer.

If your station embeds the video version of the story as part of the website template, that’s great.  However, if that’s not going to get posted for hours — consider shooting a little b-roll or an interview from the scene on your smartphone, so you can get that uploaded immediately with the first text.

2.  Love those links

The more relevant, bona fide links you have in your story, the more boost that piece will get in the search engines.  As Walsh says, “Always link back to original source documents, previous coverage and related stories. This is only going to help your SEO opportunities and create greater transparency for your users.”

In addition, you’ll want to give some time and attention to the story’s headline.  What keywords will people use to search Google for this story?  Use your best judgment and put those words in your headline.

3.  Invite the viewers

Let’s hope this post does a good job of incorporating online writing best practices.  We’ve created more white space by breaking the information down into a bulleted list.  We’ve kept our paragraphs relatively short — 1-2 sentences long, for the most part.

By making the text look accessible, we’ve made it easier for someone scanning for content, a common online reading practice.

4.  Add data and details

Most of the time, you’re going to uncover a lot more information about your story than you can ever use in the TV version, so make your online story richer by reporting more.  From the list of all the teachers getting awards to the specific crime stats for the neighborhood you’re covering, you can tell more of the story online, and you should make the time to do it.

5.  Get interactive

Now we’re getting greedy, but if you want to make that story the best it can be, consider making it more interactive.  If your story involves multiple locations, would a Google Map help the reader keep things straight?

If a timeline is the answer, a free and open source tool like TimelineJS is an option.  And if you want to make that data you’ve uncovered about the delays involved in building the new stadium easier to understand, Infogr.am is an amazing free and easy tool for creating interactive graphics.

It’s like your grandma always said, “There’s no sense doing a job, unless you’re going to do it right!”  So, improve those posts and start tracking your stats — then compare them to the last five stories you did before you began to optimize for online.  We’d love to hear what happens!  And thanks, Lynn Walsh, for getting us thinking about these issues.