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Confessions of a digital marketer

I was born within the rare 3-year window known as the Oregon Trail Generation (1980-1982).

I tell you this for one reason: we are the generation that bridges the gap between old and new media.

We’re old enough to remember what the world was like before the Internet, before computers took the forefront in popular technology. We contacted people remotely via landlines attached to rotary or touchtone phones. We can sift through a library’s physical card catalogue, fluent in the Dewey Decimal System. We read the newspaper.

Yet, we’re young enough to embrace the Internet’s revolutionary technology. The World Wide Web is not a foreign entity to us. We came of age within it.

We are the Oregon Trail Generation and are tasked with bringing the old world into the new, while translating what new media means to the old school.

I was born in 1982.

This was the last year an American could grow up, complete high school and go to college entirely untainted by the seismic shift social media would bring, beginning roughly in 2004.

Post graduation, I would acquire a Facebook profile, Twitter feed, LinkedIn account, and then later Instagram, Google+ and build up my own blogs. I adopted these social media just as billions of people have since the early days of the modern world.

But I remember the old school. I remember the way a newspaper is laid out. I even wrote for the Boston Herald. And what I’m always telling baby boomers is that online media — Facebook updates, blog posts, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn’s shares and comments, the entirety of news activity online — is not that different than the way information proliferates via print media. A screen is just cheaper to print on, especially now that everyone has their own personal printing press in their iPhone or Android.

There is a lot to be gleaned from a newspaper, actually…

Top 5 newspaper principles marketers should use online

#1: Write a striking headline

Headlines should evoke an emotion to captivate interest. Though space is limitless online, people’s attention spans are not. The headline should not be too long. And just like in newspapers, don’t say in 10 words what you can say in five or less.

#2: Get to the point

Like the newspaper’s inverted pyramid story structure, the best information on any blog post should be right at the top. You’ve got your reader there by the headline, but the body is the only thing now that will keep them there. After all, they’re just one click away from the next article.

Mark Twain once wrote that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Wisely chosen words will also get you to that point quicker and optimize your SEO.

#3: Layout is important

No matter how well you write a blog post, if it’s not arranged aesthetically — if the font is “weird,” if the copy is bunched together — the text is less legible. Just like how a newspaper is carefully laid out to include stories prominently on a static page, blog copy should be broken up into digestible blocks and separated by subheads.

#4: Length is important

In the newspaper world, longer stories meant less real estate and more ink and paper. Though you won’t be wasting valuable ink, paper or page real estate on a blog, you’ll be wasting your time. The average blog post should be between 300-700 words, according to yoast.com. Most people won’t read much beyond that before jumping to the next page.

#5: Fit the pieces together

Components of a newspaper fit together like pieces in a puzzle. That’s a physical space, but you could say that the pieces of a blog story and its accompanying social posts and emails are linked in time. SEO is only one way we get people to read our blog posts. We can also effectively time supporting tweets, Facebook updates and email blasts that direct people to the story webpage and encourage followers to comment and share — that cascading effect that propels a “viral” story beyond your primary audience.

Social posts and emails sent at 9 a.m., EST, and 12 p.m. EST, are known to perform best. At 9 a.m. on the East Coast, people are just sitting down to their desks and don’t quite want to get into work. At noon, they’re going to lunch and, on the West Coast, it’s 9 a.m. again.

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