Mind the gap between informing and educating
Author: Kostas Papanikolaou
Mind the gap between informing and educating
The first humans that communicated with each other probably did so verbally. This is what studies have shown over the years. Cave paintings were the first “written” expression used by our species. Long before writing became a main form of communication, it still was vital for one reason. Writing not only helps communication, but it records it. Verba volant, Scripta manent. Spoken words fly away, written words remain. That’s what ancient Romans used to say. The first form of recording in history is writing. It is why we know much of the ancient history of mankind. Why we know what our ancestors were interested in. How they lived, fed, died. What they feared, liked, avoided.
Writing is also the reason we have history. We owe it the knowledge and information on the past. As the years passed, writing evolved along with everything else. From stone to papyrus, to paper, to digital. Different ways to write were born in ancient times. They also evolved, and new ones also rose to fame. The reporting of news requires a different form of writing. Educating someone, a different one. Writing a scientific study is different from writing a book on cooking. All that being said, Journalism and Content Writing are also very different. One is about informing others about facts. The other is about educating. Digging deeper into information, and creating opinions. Pieces of text that pick a side, or present a new one. Articles that are optimized for search engines. Keywords, marketing, and conversions are given priority.
There is no conflict
Both of these paragraphs are a combination of journalism and content writing. Facts, like “the first form of recording in history is writing”. Opinion, like “we owe it to the knowledge and information on the past”. In essence, you can never have a piece of content writing, without a bit of journalism. And you definitely cannot practice good journalism, without content writing. This is yet another opinion, it’s not a fact. It’s how the author perceives it. Written journalism can be done without taking keywords, SEO, and conversions into account. Excellent content can be produced without presenting facts, and stats.
In essence, journalism and content writing are not enemies. People working in these professions can be antagonists. But the content itself, the result, is too different to compare. Journalists can become content writers and vice versa. There is no conflict of interest, either. Journalism is about informing people. Content writing is about educating, and presenting opinions.
From reporting to optimizing
We mentioned that journalists can become content writers and vice versa. When this happens, many things will be completely unknown to the person changing sectors. Journalists are people trained to report news, ideally in the most objective way. They are also subject to certain editorial guidelines depending on who they work for. Journalistic articles use facts, quotes, numbers, and discoveries of the author to present the truth. Just recently the digital era became a reality for journalism.
News agencies started focusing on SEO while practicing journalism. Simply reporting in written form started becoming obscure. Trying to rank high on search engine results became a reality, a need even. Competition in online journalism is breathtaking. Its three principles are validity, immediacy, and speed. Being fast, valid, and to the point, can have a great impact on SEO. Rushing to get a story up and running, can be counter-productive.
The ability to opinionate
However, more and more journalists are transitioning to content writing. The main reason is that we are humans. Therefore, we have opinions. And we want to express them as often and loud as possible. Especially people who become journalists, they live to opinionate on their surroundings. We may describe it as a “disease”, but it’s not. It is simply the need people that are journalists have to analyze something publicly. Reporting news is vital. And can be exciting as well as rewarding. Expressing your own opinion is a whole other thing.
And content writing is something more. Content is not just an opinion. It’s SEO, keywords, conversions, engagement, and more. Business goals are a great part of the business. Brand identity and audience reach are the main goals. Immediacy is obsolete since there might be a lot of waiting. Optimizing a piece of content includes reviewing it through different prisms.
Making good use of SEO
In recent years, several content writers have switched to digital journalism. News websites are still websites and benefit from SEO. Combining the knowledge gained as a content writer with that can bring great results. SEO optimization is becoming more and more important for digital journalism. With the number of journalists turning content writers increasing, an exchange occurs. Content writers that are looking for a challenge become journalists more often.
Of course, there are several challenges faced when that happens. The largest one is to focus on reporting the news. Content writers are used to focusing on promoting a keyword or set of keywords. Brand identity and business goals are not important in journalism. Usually, content writers struggle with leaving opinion out when first entering the journalism world. However, the assets they have with them make them valuable for news websites.
The Google Factor
In the digital world, Google is the… Big Brother. Google’s “spiders” scan pages to rank them based on SEO and content. This applies to all websites on the Internet. Google updates its Algorithms frequently, favoring quality, and relevance. The “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines” is a manual Google has created. It includes an Overall Page Quality Rating Scale. This is a five-point scale for overall page quality, including “lowest”, “low”, “medium”, “high”, and “highest”.
Since Google has the largest search engine and its rankings matter most, both serious journalism and quality content are “safe”. Google describes the “highest” quality as content with the highest level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T). In other words, a well-structured piece of text, with cross-checked facts, and the best language quality possible. Also, Google introduced the Panda algorithm in 2011. Panda lowers the ranking of low-quality websites. That way, it promotes the highest quality of content and journalism to users. These two sectors are bound together not just by writing, but more…
Hand-in-Hand to the Top
Understanding how Google ranks websites and web pages is of vital importance for content writers and journalists. Realizing that these two professions go hand-in-hand when it comes to their true purpose, is something else. And they do. Both professions require extensive research. Wording and syntax have to be impeccable. Sources need to be credible, and numbers legitimate. Content writing researches journalistic articles to gain perspective. Journalists read content to expand their views on important matters.
This exchange of information and feedback makes the digital world a better place. Google has made it clear that serious journalism is prioritized heavily. The same goes for high-quality content. Anything else will be ranked lower. This might seem like “pressure”, yet those that offer high-quality content won’t be afraid. The Internet is free space. However, fake news and low-quality content have nothing to offer. On the other hand, content writers and journalists combined can improve things instantly. And we hope they keep doing so. They share the same passion, expressing it differently.