Tag Archives: Copywriting

Blogging Again for The Atlantic

I’ve been working on a sponsored blog for The Atlantic, where I find links, write, edit, and so on. I’ve been finding out about such topics as cloud computing.

The experience reminds me of my first job: I was an editorial assistant/proofreader at PC Magazine, way back when it was still a print publication and the latest system was (I think) Dos 4.1. I used to go home with my head swimming with such terms as ROM, C> Prompt, and 8086. Now it’s a bunch of acronyms and terms such as BPM, Network IPS MQ, or just plain IT.

Pleasure is the Business

I love this comment “strober” wrote on the Delta piece I did for the The Atlantic’s website:

great feature here – only way to do business is to mix in a bit of pleasure. Thank you for the tips!

That’s exactly it, strober–while you might have meant something else in your comment, I still think it’s important to give the potential customer something interesting.

Maybe then, the message will get through. And by the way, that’s the trend, the cheap tricks aren’t working anymore. But I wrote about that before here and here.

Is SEO D.O.A.?

In a posting for PaidContent, Ben Elowitz writes that SEO is dead–killed by by “SMO,” or Social Media Optimization. He says readers are now going to content sites, not because of a search, but because of a link provided by a friend on Facebook. He then rhapsodizes how this could lead to a time when good content is what people are after–not keywords and the like.

Over the past five years, Web publishing has been so heavily dominated by search engine optimization (SEO) that, to many publishing executives, the right keywords have become far more important than their sites’ actual content or audience. But this movement toward SEO has been dangerous, as it’s moved publishers’ eye off their most important job of creating great content, and onto the false goals of keywords, hacks, paid links, and technical engineering that their audience doesn’t know or care about.

I hope he’s right, but it’s best to remember that there’s that thing Lewis Mumford called the Myth of the Machine: we always think the latest invention will lead to our finally becoming less vulgar (when TV was invented, we thought it meant we’d all watch cultural programs–HA HA HA).

The death of SEO could also mean (given that Elowitz’s conjectures on where traffic will be coming from is correct) that we’ll be living in a hall of mirrors: only our friends will give us news. Personally, I get my news through Google Reader, a different kettle of fish in many ways (although Reader has a social aspect). I’m not sure where that lies on the matrix. And, while Facebook is what everyone talks about, Twitter is better on click-throughs.

The death of SEO has been predicted before. The last one I recall said Google Instant has killed SEO. Maybe SEO will die like that final scene in the 70s movie, Murder on the Orient Express: everyone is killing it, because it deserves to die.

My Google Maps Piece is up

As noted earlier, I wrote a piece for The Atlantic, using Google Maps.

It was a highly complex project and difficult to execute–I wrote pithy listings for some 125 spots all over the world. I also provided the client with Google map locations and art work (I volunteered for that, a bit to my shame).

It damned near killed me (there were many, many sleepless nights while I worked on this project), but the results look great. And it’s a popular feature, too!

You can find my Google Maps feature on The Atlantic Website.

Stupid Tricks Don’t Bring the Clicks

Using data from the most popular newspapers out there, a group called Perfect Market is saying that while stupid articles about trash personalities such as Lindsay Lohan generate traffic, they don’t bring in the money for the websites involved. Perhaps while this is a fantasy for the newspapers publishing the piece (I read about it in The New York Times), I still believe it.

After all, when I read that crap, I parachute in, and then feel filthy for it. I bail as quickly as possible and rarely forward it.

Ask Me Anything About Bourbon

I just rewrote the entire website for an ultra-premium bourbon company. I wrote thousands of words and did a lot of research on bourbon, its history, and the proper way to drink it.

Now, I know a great deal more about bourbon–I’m even pedantic in my knowledge.

But now when I sip on Knob Creek, Booker’s, Michter’s, or Woodford (those would be my faves, but I also like many others), I’m much more appreciative of it.

I love a job that makes me love life just a little bit more.

Writing on Deadline, Using Google Maps

Under deadline, there just isn’t time to be uninspired. I’m writing a dynamic, online piece that’s about some 25 restaurants in six different cities. Aimed at the business traveler, it uses Flash and it’s all linked to Google Maps. When this thing is done, it should be amazing.

Now, back to Nexis, ProQuest, and Factiva (and my notes from my own travels).

By the way, Google Maps has a sharp picture of my backyard. I don’t have access to that yard (I only have the view). But from the satellite photo, I can see more of the yard than I can from my own window.

And I can also see my rooftop. I don’t have access to my New York City building’s roof. But I now know what it looks like. I now know that my neighbors have a garden on the top of theirs.

Thank you, satellite from outer space for telling me what’s next door.

Writing: Should You Outline First?

I just ran across this piece by Nancy Rawlinson (who is a contributing editor at Guernica ) on the outlining debate. She says that yes, you should. You should outline your fiction. I have to admit that I sometimes do, and sometimes don’t. If the piece is short, within the realm of flash fiction, then I don’t. If it’s long, then yes. Absolutely. But the outline itself is also a form of fiction, because I don’t follow it all that closely.

But I outline after I’ve done a bit of writing. I struggle to find my opening, then outline it if I think I’ve got a solid opening.

When I feel like there’s a firm foundation to build something upon, then I make sure that I’m going to build it right by outlining. But only then, because if I do it too early, the enormity of what I’m about to undergo disheartens me.

Right now I’m writing the beginnings of a novel or novella  (I’m not sure which). I’m writing 50 pages, first. If the first 50 look like they’re good, then I’ll decide what it is. Or even if it’s crap.

The hardest part of writing (for me) is remembering why I’m writing the piece in the first place, and even worse—staying in love with it. It’s so easy to decide that a piece of fiction in its early stages is terrible, boring, and unfixable. (A journalist I used to know once said fiction writers were weak, because they complained all of the time. She even wrote an article about it, mocking them. But this journalist was wrong: fiction writers aren’t weak complainers. Not at all—we’re inventing a whole world, which is a difficult thing. And the slightest bit of grounding for us—like an outline—is a godsend.)

Advice: 10 Tips for Writers

Janet Fitch author of the novels White Oleander and Paint it Black has some advice for writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction (although the advice is directed at fiction writers).  Many of these tips were already given to me by Jim Shepard (back when I studied with him), but they’re worth repeating here. I’ll give tip number one below. The rest is at The Los Angeles Times site.

1. Write the sentence, not just the story
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. . .

As far as copywriting goes, I thought this article in Website Magazine was equally good. And like Fitch’s advice, it’s all-purpose.

My Posted Clips

I have about a third of my clips up on this site: they’re broken into three categories: my recent Fiction, Editorial Clips and work I’ve done as a Copywriter. The Editorial Clips and Copywriter pages include a rundown of what I can do for my clients as a freelance writer, SEO copywriter, or ghostwriter.

Eventually, there will be slides and all sorts of stuff. Eventually. Right now, nothing’s too fancy around here. It’s like I’ve just moved into a large, messy house and the construction workers haven’t quite finished with the plumbing and painting.

Except I’m the guy doing the plumbing and the painting; I’m doing this thing myself.

It’s a fun thing to do: I’m learning WordPress more concretely (Guernica is on Movable Type, so I’d previously known that CMS better than this one)

Will Bad Newsgathering Outlast Good Papers?

Newsonomics has a piece on its blog comparing Patch.com news report with one in the Contra Costa Times. Contra Costa has better reporting. But Patch had more interaction with its readers. It also had better SEO and was listed higher in Google.

The start-ups will have to improve their reporting, because bad reporting is wallpaper. Boring wallpaper. But the news organizations are going to have to figure out this thing called SEO. Or they will die.

Ran across this posting: poor SEO may be what killed thelondonpaper.com (but as the comments to the posting say, that might be pushing it, as a thing to say. Ironically, the writer was going for some good SEO, and thereby misstated things).

Still Working on This Site

It’s a slow process, but I’m putting PDFs of my clips onto this site.

Click on “Editorial Clips” for my freelance writing/journalism and “Copywriter” for my ad-driven writing. Eventually, I’ll also have my all of my fiction up, and information on readings and events.

Right now, clips are also available here: http://www.mediabistro.com/MeakinArmstrong