Friday, January 30, 2015

Which Headline Would You Click On?

  1. Everything You Know About Writing Is Wrong: 10 Myths, 10 Rules
  2. 10 Myths and 10 Rules of Good Business Writing
  3. Everything You Need to Know About Writing
  4. You Need Not Be Shakespeare to Write Well. Just Learn These 20 Myths and Rules
  5. Most Business Writing Is Lousy. Here's Why—And How to Fix It
  6. To Write Well, Forget Everything Your High-School English Teacher Taught You
  7. Writing Isn’t Easy, but It Can Be a Lot Easier With These 15 Easy Rules
  8. If Steve Jobs Wrote As Well As He Delivered Presentations, This Would Be His Playbook

Addendum: And the winner is...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Your Uberized Future

“Just as Uber is doing for taxis, new technologies have the potential to chop up a broad array of traditional jobs into discrete tasks that can be assigned to people just when they’re needed, with wages set by a dynamic measurement of supply and demand, and every worker’s performance constantly tracked, reviewed and subject to the sometimes harsh light of customer satisfaction. Uber and its ride-sharing competitors, including Lyft and Sidecar, are the boldest examples of this breed, which many in the tech industry see as a new kind of start-up—one whose primary mission is to efficiently allocate human beings and their possessions, rather than information.”

Farhad Manjoo

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This Is Why Hacks Hate Flacks

“For 20 years, as a reporter and editor in London and New York, most of my time has been spent doing the things nonjournalists assume journalists do all day: developing sources, chasing leads, delving into secret files and polishing paragraphs. But I have also devoted countless hours to dealing with PR people. This has involved furious phone calls to protest at my underplaying a client’s view of the world, surreptitious forwarding of material helpful to the case being pitched, and friendly invitations to bend my ear over lunch or drinks ... Then there are the emailed pitches, trying to persuade me to spend time and reporting resources on stories of questionable value to the FT’s readers.

“My inbox is clogged with the ‘barking news’ about New York’s first doggie-treat truck, the invitation to meet the inventor of the multimedia coat hanger, the press release on the “trail-blazing” motorway service station and the survey on ‘slowcial networking’ (otherwise known as sending greetings cards). There is the gobbledegook about ‘new paradigms,’ ‘providers of proactive solution management systems’ and “taking consumers down the marketing funnel,’ and there is endless ‘circling back’ from over-friendly strangers (‘Hey buddy!’ began one recent email) wondering whether their pitch ‘could be a nice fit for Financial Times, New York Bureau’—a target picked blindly from the directory.

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson

After Reading Your Next News Article, Ask Yourself This Indispensable Question

“We want to be writing for smart, nonexperts. And we want to be doing it in a way, that if we have succeeded, they can turn around and explain that topic to someone else. To me, that is the test. To be blunt, for a long time, too much journalism has failed in that. Written in really long sentences, in a somewhat stilted way—often, trying to pack every idea of any significance into the first 250 words. I think that isn’t conversational, and I think it makes comprehension and content harder to understand.”

David Leonhardt

Friday, January 16, 2015

Raise Your Hand if This Describes How Your Company Approaches Social Media

“There was a social team that ran Twitter for the newsroom, but Facebook and YouTube were handled by marketing. SEO was handled by the product team, while analytics fell under the consumer insights team.”

Inside the New York Timess Audience Development Strategy

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Entertainment Is a Necessary and Noble Component to Every Form of Communication

“If you … ignore the imperative to engage people and make them interested in what you’re doing, then the whole thing becomes self-indulgent and boring, and therefore inconsequential.

“One shouldn’t … be entertaining for its own sake … But it’s necessary to get people into the door … so that your serious journalism isn’t just good but—as important—‘heard’ …

“You have to do things to make people want to spend their finite time reading what you’ve written instead of all the other shit they can be doing on the Internet …

Glenn Greenwald

“The trick has always been—whether it’s covering tech news, economic news, or anything else—to cover it in a way that’s smart enough so that people in the industry will appreciate it, but also enthusiastically enough so that people outside will find it compelling … Billions of dollars are made and lost every single day in the market, so there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t be a thrilling thing to follow, just as if you were following sports.”

Joe Weisenthal

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Which Headline Would You Click On?

  1. Social Media for Dummies
  2. Everything You Need to Know About Social Media
  3. 7 Ways to Become a Social Media Pro
  4. 7 Things You Need to Know About Social Media
  5. 7 Secrets to Social Media Success
  6. 7 Ways to Socialize Your Media
  7. 7 Ways to Achieve Social Media Success
  8. 7 Ways to Kill It on Social Media
  9. 7 Things You Must Know to Master Social Media
  10. The 7-Part Process to Become a Social Media Pro
  11. 7 Simple Ways to Dominate Social Media
  12. 7 Easy Ways to Perfect Your Social Media
  13. Everything You Wanted to Know About Social Media but Are Too Embarrassed to Ask
  14. The 7 Most Important Things You Need to Know About Social Media
  15. 7 Things You Never Knew About Social Media
  16. 7 Pro Tips for Social Media Marketers
  17. 7 Things You Must Learn to Improve Your Social Media
  18. What Every Businessman Needs to Know About Social Media
  19. 7 Tricks to Turbocharge Your Social Media
  20. The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media
  21. 7 Powerful Social Media Hacks

Addendum (1/10/2015): The results, via Outbrain:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How the New Yorker Differs From BuzzFeed

“Right on down to the font choice and page breaks, every decision we made, we first asked ourselves, ‘How will this affect whether … people will read a story from beginning to the end?’ … Sure, the New Yorker wants people to share its content ... But while the new design has its requisite social media buttons, they are quiet and understated affairs, not big flags screaming ‘Click Me! Click Me!’ on all sides of the content. That's very much by design.”

John Brownlee

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Make Your Bylines Prominent

“Author bylines and photos need to be bigger and more prominent! We're developing strong voices on the site ... but they need help standing out. Gawker works best when you know that each post is coming from a specific person or individual.”

Max Read

A Model Apology

From Annalee Newitz of io9:

“On Wednesday, we published an article about animal welfare in research experiments. It was biased, factually incorrect, and should not have appeared on io9 in that form. As io9’s editor-in-chief, I’m the one who screwed up, and I’m sorry. Here’s how this mess happened, and what we’re doing about it.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Does Vox Practice What It Preaches?

You decide. Here’s how the company’s CEO depicts its modus operandi:

“Vox Media has never chased algorithms for traffic and we never will. We operate on the belief that the best digital distribution platforms tune their services over time to reward the best and most relevant content from strong media brands. We’ve seen the roadkill of companies that gamed the system—achieving fleeting scale over long-term sustainability. Of course optimization and experimentation are critical, and is part of what makes us a truly modern digital media company, but we remain firmly committed to the promise that our editorial will always be data informed, never data driven. We know that quality ranks highest, and that substance is viral.”

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Which Headlines Would You Click On?

An Economist Goes Christmas Shopping


The Deadweight Loss of Christmas

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Picture Is Worth a Million Words

“Through its research, Adore Me has found that the right model matters even more than price. If customers see a lacy pushup on a model they like, they’ll buy it. Put the same thing on a model they don’t, and even a $10 price cut won’t compel them. Pose matters as well: the same product shot on the same model in a different posture can nudge sales a few percentage points in either direction. Another test found that a popular model can sell a more expensive version of the same garment.”

This Lingerie Company A/B Tests the World's Hottest Women to See Who Makes You Click “Buy

Friday, December 12, 2014

Are You Responsible? Before You Answer, Read This Quote

“Now I will tell you why I am so serious and severe about this. I despise irresponsible people ... An irresponsible person ... makes vague promises, then breaks his word, blames it on circumstances and expects other people to forgive it. A responsible person does not make a promise without thinking of all the consequences and being prepared to meet them.”

—Ayn Rand

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Simply Adding a Number to a Headline Can Make a Big Difference

The Congressional Budget Office
Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2015 to 2024

Catherine Rampell
79 Options for Reducing the Deficit

How to Write a Follow-up Cover Letter

Michael Kinsley does it perfectly in this 1975 letter to the New Republic.

This is an inquiry about a summer job. I wrote to Marty Peretz, who is a former teacher of mine, several months ago, but received no response. Under the assumption that he is a busy man I have declined to take a hint, and now write to you. A resume and some samples are enclosed. They are mostly humorous (at least in intent) but, as the resume indicates, I have written serious pieces as well for various publications and have a Nader book coming out in the fall whose tone could best be described as morose. Friends at TNR might be willing to put in a good word for me: Tom Geoghegan or Eliot Marshall among the old guard, or Linc Caplan among the new. Tom and I were roommates for two summers while I was working for Nader and he was working for you. I know Ralph would vouch for me, and I hope Marty would as well. Thanks very much.

How to Articulate the Perfect Elevator Speech

Speak in benefits.

Instead of This Try This
I’m a detail-oriented editor. I can change the critical words on your website that will convert passersby into customers.
I hande public affairs. I have a close relationship with Senator Smith, who chairs the committee your company will soon appear before.
I’m on the digital team. I specialize in search engine optimization, which will make your bad news disappear in Google.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Devil’s in Even the Smallest Details

Two examples:

1. What works in social media doesn’t necessarily work in email.

According to Teddy Goff, who ran the first Obama campaign’s digital operations, the best subject lines emphasized fear (e.g., “I Will Be Outspent,” “Scary Number” and “Last Chance”), whereas the best social content emphasized hope and change.

2. How people find your content predicts how much they’ll read.

According to Nicholas Thompson, the top editor for, those who access New Yorker articles via the magazine’s Twitter channel finish reading more articles than those who arrive via non-New Yorker Twitter channels.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The 2 Secrets of Media Training Every Politician Must Master

1. Repetition Is King

One day, while sitting in traffic between meetings, I left 10 virtually identical voicemails for potential donors, each nearly two minutes in length, and each performed with the requisite conviction, spontaneity and touch of humor in just the same spots.

2. Values Before Policy

Mattis taught me always to lead with values before getting into policy, a key lesson in my evolution from commentator to candidate. It’s what Bill Clinton always did. “Don’t be a pundit in your own race,” Mattis coached. “People don’t want analysis—they want a leader.”

Adapted from Matt Miller