Keeping it simple

Is it wrong I felt relieved (and ever so slightly smug) when I heard the statement: “no one really understands the Internet” by Anthony Mayfield last week?

I couldn’t really help it – largely because having an insight into the future of journalism can at times seem a bit overwhelming. I know we have no choice but to get to grips with it but it’s nice to hear we are all as clueless as one another as to where it’s going ey?!

I mean, the whole Internet ideal could be considered a bit of a mess really – it’s fantastic -but it’s a mess. These diagrams are designed to show us how networking on the internet works??? Could they be any more complicated???

A diagram displaying social networking trends.

A diagram displaying social networking trends.

With all this in mind maybe what we really need for the development of the online journalism world is simplicity.

But is simplicity a good thing? Take search engine optimisation (soe). It is imperative that headlines are constructed using soe friendly vocab – but in doing that are we losing a bit of the traditional newspaper generic.

Effective headlines and use of aesthetics have always been important in the print industry and are now may be even more so on the Internet. Photo supplied by B.A.Sykes.

Effective headlines and use of aesthetics have always been important in the print industry and are now may be even more so on the Internet. Photo supplied by B.A.Sykes.

As Elinor Mills says, “Pithy, witty and provocative headlines–the pride of many an editor–are often useless and even counterproductive in getting the Web page ranked high in search engines.”

The key to headlines nowadays is simplicity. They don’t need to be fancy, clever, pun-tastic jewels of journalism anymore they are simply required to do one thing – tell the story in the most concise, soe-friendly way.

This simplifying of all things dot com-orientated is being echoed all over the Internet in a much broader sense.

Maybe because we are the first cyber generation trying to get to grips with the online world the majority of us our happy to stick with what we know – which means keeping everything that little bit simpler. If we want to use a search engine – Google it is. If we want to do some social networking – head for Facebook. It’s a given. 

What we feel comfortable with is simple, accessible, online information and tools. Which is something I think needs to be remembered as the Internet and as online journalism develops.

As was stated in a presentation by Steve Klein, “The web is sinking in bs, and users are not impressed.”

What he goes on to say is that articles on the web are driven by impatient readers – and what is needed is simplicity in language. No more than 60 words a line, justified to the left or right but definitely not in the centre and certainly as short a piece as possible – which is a shame – but what we need to combat the baffling vastness of web space is an element of simplicity.

Surely, therefore, the key to the success of online journalism is tech-savvy journalists? Journalists who are capable of writing for the Internet in terms of blogs, immediacy and style but who can also simplify accessibility to the vast number of journalistic tools out there. 

And maybe just, if not more important, is the role of the web designer. News sites need to be clear, concise displays of information. Jeff Jarvis suggests, “What you can’t do best link to the rest,” maybe that is an effective way of using the Internet’s vastness to our advantage. But what could also work is simply displaying that information on one website. Make it simple and make it accessible.

Take a look at any of the big news websites and you’ll see what I mean – they are attractive and accessible. Clarity in aesthetics may never have been more important. 

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2 responses to “Keeping it simple

  1. It seems so ironic that keeping it simple is key to online journalism, searchability and all that! I’m not sure if sometimes writing creativity (especially in terms of headlines and standfirsts, etc) has to be sacrificed in order for people to find your article online. Going for keywords instead of puns, etc. But at the end of the day, audience is the most important thing, so searchability is vital I guess!

  2. Actually, I’d suggest that the challenge is higher – writing witty and creative headlines that also make it clear what the story is about without context.

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