Effective Online Marketing for Writers – Highlights from Digital Writers’ Masterclass

Connor and Nathan listen as Anne gets all excited about vertical marketing

Connor Tomas O’Brien sat down with Nathan Farrugia and Anne Treasure to chat about effective online marketing for writers, as part of the Digital Writers’ Masterclass session, ‘Vertical Marketing, Online Presence, and Dino-Erotica’.

Anne, former Digital Marketing Executive at Momentum, spoke about how writers can achieve vertical marketing (i.e. marketing to a particular niche). She suggested writers can best market themselves by identifying a community of interest to write into, listing Goodreads and Readsocial as examples of vibrant global literary communities. Anne urged writers to maintain an active presence on social media, and ensure they use a consistent voice across all the various platforms. Anne created a slideshow about vertical marketing, which can be found here.

Nathan is a bestselling techno-thriller author who signed with Momentum after (to quote from his EWF bio) ‘inadvertently stalking his publisher on Twitter’. Nathan believes readers will judge the professionalism and quality your work by the appearance of your website. He said writers need to ask themselves the following two questions when setting up a website and/or blog:

Who are you? 

What are you writing (what is your content)?

Nathan recommended keeping your website photo-centric, clean and uncluttered. He urged writers to carefully consider what appears ‘above the fold’ (before you scroll down your webpage). He listed Chris Allen and Matthew Riley as authors who have effective websites. He also noted that blogs can be just as effective as websites, listing the website of Momentum author Kylie Scott as an example of a strong and clear self-marketer. Nathan created a slideshow to illustrate effective author websites, which can find the slide show here.

‘Start Me Up’ – Sustainable Digital Media Businesses

Connor Thomas O’Brien with Rohan Workman and Steph Harmon

Connor Tomas O’Brien with Rohan Workman and Steph Harmon

This afternoon session of Digital Writers’ Masterclass, hosted by Connor Tomas O’Brien, featured Steph Harmon, Managing Editor of Junkee, and Rohan Workman, Manager of the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP) in discussion about sustainable digital media businesses.

Rohan observed that television networks are starting to realise how important it is for journalists to have a personal brand, as the majority now have their own Twitter accounts to create an interactive and real-time experiences. Rohan noted that bloggers are powerhouses in their own right, with seventeen-year-old girls with a passion for fashion sitting in the front row of high-end runway shows. ‘If you have a passion for a particular topic, and you can offer better than what’s already out there, then get involved’. Ultimately, the power is now with the consumer, as it is really up to them to see and select what they want.

Steph agreed, adding that major media suppliers are facing audience problems – users used to go to the homepage of a newspaper to look for news, but now newspapers have to find users. She noted, at Junkee “we don’t publish content for our audience, we publish it for our audience’s friends’. Steph offered the following advice for those seeking to set up their own site:

  1. Fill the gap (What is different about what you are creating? How is it new? Junkee aims for quality over quantity.)
  2. Invest in tech
  3. Learn how to internet (Strategize for articles that go viral—milk it! Be aware of what draws users to your site, but be wary of exploiting it too much. ‘The job of an editor is to make sure there’s a balance of click baits and quality articles, otherwise you’ll sabotage your own site’. There needs to be a pay-off for click bait.)
  4. Learn how to money (If you only have one person join you when you start up your company, make sure it’s sales. Junkee had four major advertisers signed up prior to the launch.)

A few highlights from audience question time:

Is curation the end of serendipity?

Rohan said articles will still fall your way, but from a different method (social media).

How much of the Junkee content is researched?

The in-house editorial team capitalise on viral web content. Junkee pay freelancers to research original works.

What funding opportunities are there in Melbourne?

Rohan suggested Lean Startup (http://theleanstartup.com/) and to attend Silicon Beach (http://siliconbeachaustralia.org/) networking events.

Does a particular word length get the most clicks?

Steph found that opinion pieces, around 800 words, do really well.

If you’re just starting out, how can you pay contributors?

Steph recommends giving the writers something back – mentor them to make sure they’re aware of what you’re getting out of their work.

Highlights from #EWF14: ‘Binary Code? Gender, Words, and Digital Spaces’

Just so we’re clear, Katie, Leena and Connor are not greasing me off, they’re just listening intently to an audience question. If they knew in advance the quality of my photography skills, they probably would’ve greased me off. …Maybe they’re psychic … maybe they were greasing me off…

Just so we’re clear – Connor, Katie and Leena are not greasing me off, they’re just listening intently to an audience question. If they knew in advance the quality of my photography skills, they probably would’ve greased me off. …Maybe they’re psychic … maybe they are greasing me off…

A highlight of the ‘Digital Writer’s Masterclass’ was the afternoon session, ‘Binary Code? Gender, Words, and Digital Spaces’, featuring gaming journalist Katie Williams, and Leena van Deventer, game developer and writer. The session was hosted by Connor Tomas O’Brien, co-director of the Digital Writers’ Festival.

An experienced journalist, Katie experienced what she calls ‘well-meaning sexism’ from PR reps at a major gaming convention. The reps either assumed she was only there to talk about “female” mind games (she cites Facebook games like Animal farm as examples) or they assumed she was an assistant, before then offering to show her how to play a game. After the event, she wrote an article about the experience, which resulted in hate mail from male gamers. It also resulted in positive feedback from female gamers who had experienced similar prejudices.

Leena noted that only 8.7% of the gaming industry in Australia is made up of women. By comparison, women occupy 19% of mining positions. Connor asked Leena and Katie what opportunities there were for female game developers, and what was deterring women from entering the industry. Leena and Katie both agreed that the AAA games primarily consisted of hyper-masculine characters (citing the Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty series as a few examples). Leena mentioned that L.A. Noir is the most AAA rated game to be made in Australia, but it was still yet another game that relegated women to roles of murder victims or temptresses. She believes there is still hope for the gaming industry, as AAA narratives are starting to be held accountable, with the help of a vibrant social media community, so not all AAA games are ‘Shooty Bang, Son of Shooty Bang and Shooty Bang’s Revenge’. Katie and Leena agree that Australian indie game communities offer women the greatest opportunity to get involved and experiment with different games.