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i WED: SXSW on marrying writing, editing, designing

Unifying your content in a multimedia era

We’ve all heard the expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but when viewers look at your webpage, app, and yes, even book, they instantly judge whether it’s worth their time to continue reading or not. That’s why it’s imperative that your writing, editing, and design are presented as a package that represents what you want it to.

At this year’s South by Southwest conference, Roy Peter Clark – writer, editor, teacher, and writing coach – and Mario R. Garcia – newspaper and magazine designer – presented on the way you should “wed” these three aspects of presentation with their session, i WED (writing, editing, designing).

One of the most important principles of creating well-designed content is to start with the blank page and design and write together, according to Clark and Garcia. Don’t simply write the text and add design elements afterward or you will lose valuable opportunity to make your content an experience rather than just some words and a picture.

It would be like watching a movie with no music and minimal settings. To tell a story with emphasis, you have to consider all parts with equal care.

Techniques and elements to consider

  • Making content design functional and intrinsic
  • Storyboarding ahead of time, and not repeating content
  • Planning key points and emphasizing them using design elements
  • Using white space as punctuation to create emphasis and tension
  • Creating an interesting dissonance of conflicting components; Clark explains this further in his TED talk in the video above
  • Designing for the different platforms on which content is published

Writing, editing, and designing content for different screens

This infographic shows that attention spans online are shorter than ever - which is why it's so important to make your content emphasize your points effectively on different platforms. Image found here: http://www.huckleberrybranding.com/category/blog

This infographic shows that attention spans online are shorter than ever – which is why it’s so important to make your content emphasize your points effectively on different platforms.
Image found here: http://www.huckleberrybranding.com/category/blog

Many newspapers will now cover the essentials of a story immediately for their websites and mobile apps, and then write a more in-depth story later to be published on media for which readers tend to have longer attention spans.

This trend keeps in mind the way to design differently for each platform, and allows readers to get what they want out of your various applications.

In fact, The New York Times has a set of staff dedicated to designing content for their mobile app NYT Now, which gives bullet points of stories and links to the longer articles on the website.

  • Phone – Readers on this screen have shorter attention spans, about 3 minutes, and would therefore need more truncated and bullet-pointed design.
  • Tablet – Readers here have more engagement, have more time to spend, and are looking for more entertainment than on phones.
  • Online – You want to encourage engagement and sharing, and must also write for “continual partial attention,” meaning thoughtful use of subheads and bullet points to encourage readers to continue reading.
  • Print – These readers can’t interact as immediately as with the other media, and this reader has already invested in your content by the time they have the print version in their hands, so you can go more in-depth. You still want to encourage engagement with your brand, however.

As Garcia and Clark say, “Digital news is the raw meat; print is the cooked meat.”

While Twitter and blogs are fantastic for giving an impression of the raw meat of a story, you don’t want to lose sight of how the whole dinner will come together.

 

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While this session was strongly tied to multimedia from a publisher’s perspective, what takeaways do you see for your brand? Looking forward to your seeing perspective in the comments.

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Future of Social Media: Mark Schaefer at SXSW Interactive

When you stop to think about everything that the internet offers us on a daily basis – the answer to any question at the tip of our fingers, the ability to connect with people on the other side of the planet and to communicate with hundreds and thousands of people from the comfort of your own home – it feels as if the future is already here. All we’re missing is the hover cars.

Social media plays a big part in the innovations and abilities the internet provides. But where do we go from here? What is the future of social media?

One of my South by Southwest highlights: Mark Schaefer, author, public speaker, blogger, and marketing professor, presented what he believes the future of social media is, and how to navigate through it. More about Mark Schaefer on his blog.

Schaefer outlines the four Digital Revolutions, the three previous and the one to come. Image found here http://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/04/28/digital-marketing-innovation/

Schaefer outlines the four Digital Revolutions, the three previous and the one to come. Image found here http://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/04/28/digital-marketing-innovation/

The Four Digital Revolutions

Presence (The WWW) 1990-2000 – Companies were really only expected to have a website at this point, to show an online presence.

Discovery (Search) 2000-2010 – A bigger emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO) happened in this time period, to encourage the discovery of your company.

Utility (Social Media & Mobile) 2010-2015 – The focus in this phase is on meeting the consumers’ needs when they need it, which is possible because mobile devices make it easy to consume content at anytime. The average American is spending 10 hours a day consuming content online, a two-hour increase because of mobile devices.

Immersion (User-Generated Content) 2015-? – This is where the future of social media exists. Social media sites are becoming more and more about users creating content. Schaefer estimates that by the year 2020, the amount of data online will have grown by 600% and 75% of that will be created by the consumer. This will also be the era of “wearable technology” and “immersion,” where, Schaefer says, “the Internet will surround us like the air that we breathe.” This would create a whole new landscape of marketing possibilities.

How to navigate the new social media landscape

Content Shock is created when the amount of content being produced is greater than the amount of content that people can consume. Image found on Mark Schaefer's site http://www.businessesgrow.com/

Content Shock is created when the amount of content being produced is greater than the amount of content that people can consume. Image found on Mark Schaefer’s site http://www.businessesgrow.com/

While it’s great that everyone and her brother has access to create content online, offering a more diverse and thriving online market, this also generates stronger competition for your content to break through the clutter and be seen.

In fact, there will be a time in which the amount of content internet users can consume will be outweighed by the amount of content produced. Schaefer calls this “Content Shock” which, unfortunately, is uneconomical.

This Content Shock, which Schaefer believes is coming soon, will have some negative implications on small businesses, including:

  • Big corporations will overtake the market.
  • Schaefer says just like with most industries, those with “deep pockets” can obtain control over a market and even create barriers that perpetuate the Content Shock for their competitors.
  • Companies will have to invest more in their content than they are getting back, making the production of content no longer worth it.

Create content that will stand out

Schaefer says that the Content Shock might be a few years off for some markets and might be here now for others. It’s important to plan ahead and think about how saturated your particular market is.

When producing content, Schaefer says to think about whether what you’re making is “RITE,” meaning:

  • Relevant
  • Interesting
  • Timely
  • Entertaining

He says that the element of fun is essential, as is serving your consumers’ needs and keeping your content human. Content that is “RITE,” especially in an under-saturated market, will get views and garner your brand attention.

Another important thing to keep in mind as the market keeps evolving is search filters, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Filters like Zite might soon replace Google even, making SEO less important than it used to be.

It’s essential that your brand evolves with the industry, or it will be lost in the shuffle and unable to stand up to the competition.

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How do you envision the future of Social Media? What are you doing to prepare your brand? Share your thoughts and insights with a quick comment.

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