Writing for the Web
Content Creation Online
April 9, 2001

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Reaching Great Minds Online
April 9, 2001 Issue #84
Mike Valentine, Editor,


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Where is the Magic?
by Mike Banks Valentine

Entrancement with the web is epidemic. There are 7 million
new pages added daily according to recent statistics. Why?

There is something magical going on here.

The web has taken hard-nosed and jaded venture capitalists in
record numbers and sucked their massive bank accounts dry. Why?

Because there is something magical going on here.

Big business has dumped billions into creating new web tools,
web technologies, innovations to allow universal web access
in airports, hotels and convention centers. Why?

Because there is something magical going on here.

People have given up lifelong passions and established careers
to get into this new medium in one way or another. I'm one of
them and I believe that it is absolutely fascinating, endlessly
useful. Why?

Because there is something magical going on here.

When most new inventions or radical ideas are introduced, the
historical reaction from the "experts" has been derision.
Attempts to discredit and attack the innovators are common.

That's not happening with the web. Yes, Aunt Martha is a bit
slow to get interested. Schools are bit slow to get connected.

How else do you explain the growth in interest from the public,
even with record losses suffered by web and technology companies
on the stock market? Why do companies continue to invest in
technology and the internet when it looks like a financial black

Because there is something magical going on here.

There can be no explaining why individuals put their lives up
on the web for the world to see, even when their visitor counts
are abysmally low. Unless we are all under some sort of magical
spell cast by the internet faery, there can be no explaining it.

I'll bet you are expecting me to answer my own questions here.
Wrong. I think it's a massive mistake to seek understanding of
miracles and magic. I'm just going to accept it and I want to
be there when the next miracle happens. I'm simply entranced.

Because there is something magical going on here.

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The Truth about Online Content:
It's Time for Writers to Take Back the Web
By Melissa Brewer, one of the web's hottest search engines, has indexed over
1,346,966,000 web pages to date. The World Wide Web is officially
gigantic, with hundreds of thousands of corporate, small business,
and ecommerce websites vying for something more than just
the "eyeballs" that web analysts hailed in the 1990's. In order to
create success, websites are now searching for a steady, interactive
audience. Why aren't they succeeding? Could it STILL have something
to do with the content?

Understanding The Content Buzz

About a year ago, the entire web was filled with a few wonderfully
hip,fatally cool clichˇs; "Content is King," "Your Website Needs
Stickiness," "CRM is key!" and new resources, allegedly customer-
oriented, began to explode across the internet. Syndicated web
content became a cool way to get free words to fill up space on a
website. Soon, companies such as began create a content
overlap. Website competition may be presenting the exact same news
feed at the exact same time, with the exact same keyword-rich

Once again, the web industry began buzzing, "Learn How to Create
Unique Content for Your Website!" The HTML Writer's Guild began
offering classes in "Advanced Web Writing", EEI Communications began
offering corporate training courses in "Writing for the Web and New
Media", and universities across the country added web writing to
their technology-driven and webmaster-centered curriculum. Once
trained, web design companies began touting their new "writing
skills", offering a one-stop-solution to their new website customers.

The Buzzkill for Web-Based Business

Before you ask, "What does this have to do with me, as a writer?"
Answer this question: Did you just read ANYTHING about writers in the
last two paragraphs?

Of course you didn't. Writers, traditionally, have shied away from
web markets. Many writers simply think that their skills are not
meant for web-based work, resulting in a strange shortage of web
content writers.

"Wait," the well-informed web surfer may say, "There are plenty of
writers on the web! In fact, there's enough quality writing online
that can now charge for content!" While it's true that web-
based magazines that specialize in content attract professional
writers, it is not true that the average corporate website, ecommerce
outfit, or web-based business attract web-specific writers.

As an experiment, go to and type in "content creation"
right now. How many writers are pulled up vs. web developers
offering content services alongside their website development and
design? Why do you think they do this?

Apparently, writers just aren't interested. At a recent Creative
Network gathering, a publisher told me that it is "Great" that I
write for the web. He employs over 60 writers at his consulting firm,
yet none of them are really interested in web writing. They do,
however, want to outsource work to me because their clients are
looking for this skill.

There is a common assumption that web-based solution providers (such
as web designers, programmers and developers) are experts in all
facets of web-based business. Alongside this assumption is
the "technophobia" that plagues many writers and prevents them from
offering their services to online markets. We think that we're
unwanted or unneeded, and our services will be rejected.

Where does this assumption come from? Perhaps it is because
the "techies" created and coined the word "content" when describing
the text on a website. Rather than a pretty word such as "prose" or a
practical word like "writing",the buzz about online content created a
bizarre rebellion against creativity and gave writers a strange
aversion to web-based work; how could a writer be needed for
something as dull as "content"? Isn't this something that web
designers handle?

The context of writing, when applied to online media, is perceived
somewhat differently. New web style guidelines, which helped people
read online without getting a headache, for a time became the sole
criteria for judging whether website content was up to standards.
Jakob Neilson, a famous industry analyst-turned-usability guru,
pigeonholed web writing and content alongside web design. Instead of
hailing "content" as a wonderful way to communicate with website
visitors, the term "concise, objective, and scannable" was born, and
web design and content became a means to the ultimate
goal; "usability." (Who can be creative when they're using words
like "usability" and "user interface", anyway?) Webmasters created
the web, coined new terms, and used new, techie language to describe
old products.

The Results
How many corporate websites out there actually make you want to work
for them? How many ecommerce websites sound excited and knowledgeable
about their product lines? How many email newsletters do you actually
find worth reading in a given week? Most likely, unless you're just
not very picky, you'll have trouble naming more than one or two
sources. Which means, that out of all the websites and newsletters
out there, there are only a handful that are getting what they want;
repeat, loyal visitors. This is where content creation as a writing
career becomes a reachable goal.

The Solution

If corporate websites want web content that inspires, creates an
emotional response, or at least sparks a memory (tech
term: "branding"), it's time for them to go to the people who will
give articles and copy a chance in hell for success. That's us,
folks! While web writing does combine a unique set of skills, with a
little talent and the right training, a writer can easily transition
from print to web and fill this important writing niche.

It's time to claim our writing markets online and offer our skills to
the companies that need us most. Most of them are waiting for a
reliable source of content to come along.

We're the freelance writers. We're picky about the words we use, the
sources we quote, and voice and tone of the content we create. We get
to know an audience, not "users" or "eyeballs". And we pride
ourselves not only on aesthetically pleasing text, but creating prose
and copy that works. Not in a mechanical sense, but a human sense.

Freelance web writers are not simply riding the web industry buzz,
but we're busy carefully crafting words that say precisely what a web
company needs to say.

That's right; there are creative folks who make a living writing for
the web! In fact, we were writing for the web before it came along.
We've been writing "concise, (slightly) objective, and scannable"
documents since the middle ages.

Back then, we called it poetry. :-)

So, are you ready to write for the web?

Melissa Brewer is a full-time freelance writer and web content
consultant. She hosts a website for freelance web writers at, which offers 100+ job hunt sources for
writers, resource articles, and a weekly email list with features,
market updates and spotlights. She also recently began teaching
her "Make a Living Writing for the Web" class to freelance writers,
allowing writers around the globe learn the skills they need to build
their online writing career.



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in California Wine Country, Sonoma County

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Copyright © 2000 Mike Valentine

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  June 10, 2001