New model journalism

One freelance journalist has met the credit crunch head on by adopting a new business model for his journalism. Roy H Rubenstein guest blogs about the launch of gazettabyte.

I was recently promoted from freelance to publisher. There is no company car nor have long lunches replaced copy deadlines. Instead I’ve decided to publish my own online magazine -- gazettabyte, a website covering optical developments in the datacom and telecom industries.

In July 2009, the UK’s Institute of Physics closed FibreSystems Europe, a magazine I had been writing for since 2003.  But when I approached other titles looking for replacement freelance work, I was either ignored, or told there was no freelance budget.

Moving from freelance to online publisher

So I decided to launch my own publication. But to make it work I needed to be paid.

I came up with the concept for gazettabyte, put together an editorial calendar and approached several firms within the optical industry to see if they would back the venture. It certainly helped that I have covered the optical industry as an analyst and journalist for the last decade — these were companies I knew and had worked with.

The response has been hugely encouraging. I now have nine sponsors whose backing gives me a year to establish the site.

I plan to write eight in-depth (3000-word) articles on industry trends, some company-specific features and  a range of shorter pieces - gazettabits (yes, I really do have such a tag category on the site).

No more surprise phone calls telling me to stop writing as the magazine is about to fold

One concern I have is that with eight features spread over a year, will the regular copy make readers return? Another issue is how much time the site will require. I want to remain a freelancer and cover other topics too. However much time I estimate, I expect the site will require more. Even the writing bothers me – I no longer have talented editors to improve my copy.

But I do feel privileged. I now have my own title.  No more surprise phone calls telling me to stop writing as the magazine is about to fold.

Roy H Rubenstein

Tweaking sports news

Good writing is both visual and human. Small tweaks can make all the difference, particularly in the intro sentence.

Ferrari has confirmed that Fernando Alonso will drive for the team from 2010, replacing 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, in a move that follows months of speculation.

I like the main verb to be visual. It makes the story more dramatic if the reader can picture what's going on. The word "confirmed" is not one that instantly conjures up an image. Could we re write so that "drive" is the main verb? It seems like the obvious word to use.

The writer of the original intro, wasn't sure about the change. There have been rumours this was going to happen for weeks. The reader probably already knows that Alonso will drive for Ferrari. It feels like the confirmation bit of it is the news.

If the reader cares about the actors in your story, they are more likely to read on. In general, people care about other people more than organisations. Could it be about Alonso first and then Ferrari?

It could be written more simply as

Fernando Alonso will drive for Ferrari from 2010,

but the writer worried that this misses the main part of the news out - the confirmation.

The important thing is to grab the reader's attention in the first few words. When you have them, you can tell a more complex story. What comes first should be as attractive as you can make it. Other information can always come later.

Focusing on the human interest and visual, obvious words gives us:

Fernando Alonso will drive for Ferrari from 2010, the team has confirmed, ending months of speculation.

What do you think? It is more or less the same sentence, but by moving some of the words around we have given it more punch. It is more likely people will read on.