Understanding and maximizing digital media

/ 04:01 AM March 09, 2020

We are all aware of the dominance of digital media today—witness how everyone accesses breaking news and information through their smartphones.

What has been surprising is how quick the shift has been: just few years ago, the majority would search (or Google!) for websites through their laptops or desktops. The reverse is true now, as mobile phones have become more powerful and pervasive in our lives.


But businesses and traditional media practitioners have been slower in responding to this change.

In a world where everyone wants it all now, complete with text, pictures, video and instant analytics, those who produce content (including journalists and marketing practitioners) face new challenges.


We spoke to John Nery, opinion columnist of Philippine Daily Inquirer who also served as an editor in chief of Inquirer.net, for some of his thoughts and insights on this new reality.

What are some differences between writing for print and writing for online media? Isn’t it essentially the same anyway? I suppose the objectives remain the same: We write to make an impact, to express ourselves, to engage our audience. But some of the strategies may be different.

This may be because of the nature of the audience we are writing for, or the nature of the medium we are writing in.

So, audience and medium. These, I think, are two of the main sources of difference.

There are differences, not only between writing for print and writing for the web, but also between writing for the web and writing for the smartphone, or between writing for the opinion page of a newspaper and writing for its sports page. We can say that the medium truly shapes the message.

I find that it is also useful to think of three types of audience, classified according to what drives them to read or view something: appetite, sentiment, knowledge.

Can you cite a specific difference between writing for print and writing for mobile? Today we are seeing more long pieces being read on smartphones, but I think much of the content we read or view on mobile still tends to be short, rather than long.


So while the paragraph—we might remember this from our high school or college classes—is the unit of thought in writing for print, we can make the case that the bullet point is the unit of thought for mobile writing.

Writing for digital media also forces the writer to think in terms of, or to use, multiple media types.

I mean, a digital writer would not only write text, but also consider audio, photos, graphics, video, even user interaction.

What are the benefits of being digital savvy? Can’t we just replicate our marketing efforts offline to online? Well, the future is digital, and the future is here. Sorry, I did not mean to sound like a tech company brochure. I also did not mean to imply that other media will disappear. We will continue to write scripts for TV, or dialogue for the movies, or spiels for radio, or features for newspaper and magazine. But digital is … I guess you can say digital is fast becoming the default language of communication.

One wonderful thing about digital media is that a writer can get almost immediate and highly specific feedback, not only through comments but through all sorts of statistics.

To go back to your question, offline marketing efforts—or almost any other effort, for that matter—should not simply be replicated online.

Digital writing, to an extent greater than writing for print, must be more open to, or more ready for, specific or statistical feedback.

How can we make our copy more compelling, engaging and digital-ready? Aside from having a clear sense of the audience and a good understanding of the medium, I’d say we can make our digital copy more engaging by adopting some of the writing strategies that have been proven to work. Let’s give an example. If we are to have an active presence online, we must learn how to write fast.

Say you are a food blogger, and the next list of Asia’s best restaurants is about to be released. It is highly likely that your readers will be waiting for your “take” soon after the list is released. How can you meet that need, come out with something fast, without compromising the quality or the style you are known for? There are techniques we can use.

Nery will facilitate a course titled “Strategies in Digital Writing: How to write lean, fast and viral” on April 22, 2020. Topics will include understanding digital media, meeting and engaging the different online audiences, strategies in writing plus tips on increasing the chances of your content going viral. If you want the program to be conducted exclusive to your organization, it can be customized according to your learning needs. INQ

The Inquirer Academy is at 4168 Don Chino Roces Avenue corner Ponte Street, Makati City. For more information about the workshops or if you would like to add your input on the article, please email [email protected], call (02) 8834-1557, (02) 8771-2715 or (0945) 2158935 and look for Jerald Miguel or Karl Paz, or visit www.inquireracademy.com The author is the executive director of the Inquirer Academy.

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