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Media, journalism and publishing

Online publishing: graduate area of work

Online publishing is a relatively new area, but it is growing in scale all the time.

The difference

The role of online editor is diverging from its paper-based or broadcasting counterpart. For starters, online publishers can move between text, audio and video in ways that would leave radio, television and newspapers standing. In fact, the very medium itself changes habits. Consider this; if you’re listening to music, reading a book, or watching a film you can sit back on a sofa and relax. But online you will be sitting upright, much less relaxed. People reading publications online are looking for a more immediate hook.

The similarities and potential overlap

Despite it being a new area, there is a lot of overlap between online and offline publishing. For example, the great thing about working online is that many pages can be edited even after publication. However, this can breed sloppiness, and since online material should be as professional as possible, you may need to compensate.

In many cases the similarities are so great that no distinctly new roles have been created, and offline publishers have just changed roles. This presents some different issues, as the overlap is not complete, and some new training may be required. For example, block text is hard to read onscreen, and will need breaking up before it can be properly accessible.

Business which use online publishing

Many media and publishing companies currently use online publishing, and it is likely that this group will only continue to grow. Some of the areas which are worth considering include:

  • Traditional publishers, whether they produce business or consumer publications.
  • Large organisations also need online publishers. The most obvious reason for this is that almost every company has a website. These sites need monitoring.
  • Academic publishers are increasingly moving towards online publishing and virtual learning environments.
  • Advertising agencies are another significant employer of online publishers. Since most of the biggest websites around are powered by advertising this is clearly big business.

Specialist roles

There are a number of new roles that have opened up in the world of online publishing. These are just a few.

Blogging is the new freelance journalism. The main difference is that instead of convincing an editor to publish your story/advice/cartoon, you have to convince your audience that it is worth their time. There are plenty of different types of blog out there; video blogs, photo blogs, and podcasts among them.

Being your own boss can be a major bonus and having your own soapbox can be extremely liberating. However, if freelance blogging isn’t for you, then many marketing departments at large scale organisations have their own blogs. You may have to adopt a corporate tone, but there is much greater job security, and still plenty to talk about.

Search Engine Optimisation has had a bad reputation in previous years. To some extent this is its own fault. Previously SEO involved getting certain phrases (like ‘holidays in the Caribbean’) onto a page as many times as possible and in as many ways as possible.

However, the received wisdom surrounding SEO is now that you have to make a page as good as possible and as appropriate as possible to its audience. This means that pages with useful advice, interesting information and inbound links from other sites will rank higher in search engines than advertisements with a wall of hidden text saying ‘holidays in the Caribbean, holidays in the Caribbean, holidays in the Caribbean…’

Social media is one of the fastest growing areas of online publishing. While it has been overlooked by many serious media channels for some time, many are now beginning to realise the untapped resource that social media audiences could be. Twitter is perhaps the most obvious area, with lots of news providers now using it as a place to break new headlines.

Other networks such as Facebook have received less attention, although that is beginning to change. Apps by publications such as the Guardian and The Independent have helped them to grab an audience which is as-yet untouched by others. This is very much a developing area though, and many organisations might be willing to expand here if they had the right persuasion.

Training and qualifications required

The good thing about growing up in a culture dependent on information technology is that you will already be reasonably comfortable with much of the training you will need. Most employers will only require knowledge of Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and similar technology.

For specialist roles you may be required to undergo further training and qualifications. One of the particular things you will need to brush up on is publishing law. Online publishing broadens the number of people with the power to publish articles, meaning that anyone with that power needs to know what they are doing.

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