7/13/10

What is Great Writing: The New Rules for Judging Great Content Because the Traditional Rules are Dead

As promised, Ben Elowitz at Paid Content has defined the four rules that he thinks must be used to judge great writing in the digital age in his May 2010 article, "The New Rules for Judging Quality in Published Content."  

This is the second part promised in his earlier article discussing how the traditional methods for judging great writing don't work in a world where content appears on the screen instead of on the page.  Making such broad statements as being published in the New York Times isn't a big deal anymore did bring Mr. Elowitz some flack.  After all, weren't we all raised to think that having your work appear in the NYT was the ultimate accomplishment?  Well, at least one of them?

Elowitz's Four Rules for Great Writing on the Web

I wasn't too sure if I agreed with Elowitz after reading his first piece.  However, I'm in total agreement with the four rules he provides us as the "New Rules," which are -- in my words, not his:

1. relevance to the reader, not the editor -- the content needs to be focused upon the reader's wants/needs.  What do those surfing the web want or need to know? 

2. technological component -- content can, and should, creatively include those benefits that the web has to offer (visuals, links, etc.) (Elowitz calls this co-dependence an "experience").  Consider the podcasts, videos, audios, etc.  I just saw an article in the Texas Tribune, for example, that made audio excerpts of an interview available at the end of each content paragraph, in case you wanted to listen to the question and answer as well as read about it. 

3. perspective -- the same information can, and will, be provided in many different places on the web, so great content must have its flair - a twist that makes the reader want to read its version of the story over another option out there.  He uses Huffington Post as an example here.  I'm thinking it's the reason why TMZ survives right alongside E!, Popsugar, and all the rest. 

4. buzzability -- the content has to invite sharing on the web via tweets or stumbles or diggs or "like it!" as well as being search engine index friendly (SEO is important, people!!!!).  It's true that content I find interesting is something that I want to share -- and I'm annoyed if it isn't easily tweetable.  It's also true that great content that isn't search engine optimized probably isn't getting read by anyone, because no one knows it's there to read in the first place.

Is Elowitz right?  Google and Yahoo seem to think so .....

Before you dismiss Elowitz as trendy or foolish or naive, consider that Google News now allows its readers to personalize the version of the Google News page that they see when they click on the site.  Readers are choosing what they want to read on the news site, not editors. 

And, consider Yahoo!'s new blog, The Upshot -- where eight journalists are essentially going through the Yahoo! News results, and blogging about the upcoming, trending stories.  The journalists aren't deciding what's going onto the blog -- the people surfing the web and going through the Yahoo! news search engine are collectively deciding its content. 

Me? What do I think about Elowitz's Four Rules of Great Writing?

I think Elowitz is right on the money.  And, as for Google vs. Yahoo ... well, I've personalized my Google News page.  I have never read much less bookmarked the Upshot.  I don't feel the need for a blogger to feed me the news via blog post. 

Why not?  I can surf thru the stories just fine, all by myself.  Which is the attitude and ability that is fueling this entire metamorphosis, isn't it?
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