How to write for the internet

Denny Hatch, direct-response curmudgeon, got a complaint from a reader of one of his books on copywriting. The complainer, it seems, thought Hatch’s writing advice was not right for the Internet. He wanted his money back.

Hatch went on a tear in Target Marketing magazine, and it’s well worth reading: Internet Creative: Think Old, Not New.

His main point: Writing for the internet is not meaningfully different from writing for any other medium. What works, works. If you want to know how to write well, look at good (that is, tested and proven) writing from the past:

The only way to write for the Internet — or any other medium — is to study what has been tested — and proven successful — in other media from another era.

The internet changes a lot of things for us. But it doesn’t change human psychology and motivation.

Here’s how to tell if your new-media expert is a quack: He claims writing for the internet is a whole new specialty. Someone tells you that, and you should run away as fast as you can. It’s a sure sign they don’t understand the basics, and you are going to suffer terribly if you take their advice.


Comments

2 responses to “How to write for the internet”

  1. Happy to hear I’m not a “quack” maybe only a half-quack.
    I do agree that the internet doesn’t change human psychology and motivation, but the medium does affect the message.
    In direct mail, a reader can’t access any other direct mail piece from any charity in the world with a simple search. In radio, Facebook isn’t one click away.
    As the web — and more and more mobile — shapes the way we communicate into shorter and shorter action oriented bursts we do have to adapt how we write.
    So maybe it’s the other way round. How we write for the internet is soon going to be shaping how we write for anything else.

  2. Happy to hear I’m not a “quack” maybe only a half-quack.
    I do agree that the internet doesn’t change human psychology and motivation, but the medium does affect the message.
    In direct mail, a reader can’t access any other direct mail piece from any charity in the world with a simple search. In radio, Facebook isn’t one click away.
    As the web — and more and more mobile — shapes the way we communicate into shorter and shorter action oriented bursts we do have to adapt how we write.
    So maybe it’s the other way round. How we write for the internet is soon going to be shaping how we write for anything else.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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