Online publishing platform: lesson #1

Chris Wheal shows secrets of web writing during the Online Publishing Platform lesson at the London School of Journalism.

“Are news on web different from those we read on newspapers? If so, what rules should we take into account?”

Chris Wheal

This is how our first lecture on Online publishing platform, hold by the journalist Chris Wheal (click to open new window), started on Tuesday 11 October at the London School of Journalism.

Chris is an award-winning  freelance journalist, editor, trainer and consultant. He runs his own business, Wheal Associates (click to open new window), together with his wife, Kate, and they usually write and edit for a range of publishing companies.

He soon gained our interest with his background and then he started talking about what differs in online journalism and what are the main tips a good journalist should remember.

Here are some hints we should take into account:

  • Everybody surfs the web, not only our target audience and this is why we should let them know exactly what they will find out from the page since the very first paragraph
  • People are brought to sites without seeking them and we should write in plain English in short sentences (about 20-30 words) in order to let them stay
  • Web users scan pages for key words and phrases rather than read word by word, so we should avoid unnecessary adverbs and adjectives and use key words and specific nouns
  • Users do not like to scroll, this is why we must clearly communicate our value preposition within 10 seconds
  • Web users could be interested to know more, so we should include short links to additional information, avoiding “click here” and describing what they will find
  • Readers prefer objective language than emotive phrases although we should personalise texts with ‘you’ and ‘we’ rather than the third person
  • We should add at least 5 tags and ideally one picture to each story, and we must use bullet points instead of lists
  • Headlines (31-33 characters) must quick describe the contents of the page without echoing the first paragraph
  • Each paragraph must be at least two lines and should not exceed four lines

The teacher suggested us to be always clear, brief, specific and concrete and to use search engines such as, and hashtag# searches in order to do our research.

Chris also invited us to have a look at the BBC Online website (click to open new window) since it shows the typical British web newspapers style and structure.

At the end of the lesson, Chris asked us to do research on google about ourselves and discover if we are easily findable by web users or not.

We have asked to write one article on our WordPress blog (my own blog is (click to open new window) ) in a news/factual style, and another one on our Blogger blog (my own blog is called Moon House (click to open new window) ) in a critical/comment/chatty style.

We are confident we will learn a lot from his lessons! Thank you Chris!



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