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Digital Signposts: Writing Style

In today’s “screens everywhere” environment, competition for attention has risen to unprecedented levels.

In today’s “screens everywhere” environment, competition for attention has risen to unprecedented levels. To captivate and retain users, the new world of visual communications demands that content contends against every other information enticement available. Network operators are now starting to understand this concept, using compelling imagery and video to hook viewers. However, many still struggle with the written word.

Social media has changed the rules of writing for the screen. A short, concise, and to-the-point style is now replacing more in-depth writing due to the time it takes to read excessively wordy content that demands multiple scrolls. Further, users want “news they can use” — actionable content that speaks directly to their interests.

For professional communicators, a major challenge is conforming to word counts that match user devices without compromising the ability to display key content in a compelling way. Writers need to constantly ask themselves: “Why should my reader care?” and “What action do I want my reader to take?” Therefore, it is important for writers to avoid the traditional beginning, middle, and end style or the established press release format. Instead, they should consider using the inverted pyramid (journalistic) style of writing where the most important content is told first and can easily stand alone as a complete story. If and only if layout and word count allow, supporting details should follow.

An important advantage of this style is the power it provides when integrated with content management systems. Initial headline versions can be distributed to digital signage tickers, short first paragraphs can be sent to mobile devices, slightly longer versions can be circulated to desktop channels, and even longer versions can find their way to company newsletters. Integrators need to encourage clients to move in this direction, making workflows more efficient while producing more effectively designed content for any onscreen reader.

Vern Freedlander is vice president of production services for Montréal-based X2O Media [], a full-service provider of technology, network management and content services for professional digital signage applications. With more than 20 years of broadcast television experience as a producer, director and executive, Freedlander oversees all of X2O Media’s content initiatives. He can be reached at [email protected]

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