By Alison Bate

I learned about Freemiums and Long Tails on Saturday while moderating a panel at the Write on Bowen festival on Bowen Island, near Vancouver, B.C.

WriteBowen logo2As traditional media outlets struggle to make money on the web, panelist Lisa Manfield said Freemium was one way for companies to adapt. Freemium involves promoting services by offering basic features for free, but charging a premium for extra features.

Manfield, managing editor at Orato.com, also gave a great workshop on Writing for the Web on Sunday. She teaches web writing for Simon Fraser University’s Writing and Publishing Program, and managed to pack an incredible amount of useful information into a short time.

Panelist and avid blogger Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen suggested that chasing trends is a mistake, and that keeping to the faithful “write what you know” and choosing evergreen content or reference material that never goes out of date is more important online.

She also discussed Long Tails, a phrase made popular by Wired editor Chris Anderson to describe how low-demand niche products can collectively make up a market share that equals or exceeds high-demand products — if the distribution channel is large enough.

Other online writing tips:

Avoid puns and wordplay
“If you rely on search engines for your web traffic, you cannot use wordplay. The title and subject must be in your face,” said Jill Browne, an editor and writer for the online magazine Suite101.com.
Instead of “Four-man rock team triumphs”, use “Men’s curling team wins.”

Write short pieces
“Cut in half the amount you would usually write,” said Amanda Daniell, an animal activist who uses blogs, Facebook, Twitter and a Jimdo website. Write 400-600 words maximum per page.

Blogger or WordPress?
Panelists had differing opinions:
“I like blogger, because it’s so simple,” said Amanda Daniell.

However, Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen said she prefers WordPress.org, as she can use Google AdSense and Amazon.com ads to bring in revenue to her four blogs.

I like the free hosting and wide range of templates provided by WordPress.com, but must admit I haven’t tried Blogger.

Making money from your blogs
“It’s a long haul. It takes a long time to earn $50/day,” said Laurie. The good news is that stories you wrote a year or several years ago can still generate income. “It’s like compound interest,” she explained.

Writing online compared with print
“Transitioning online can be a problem for many writers,” said Lisa Manfield. She noted that people read very differently online. They:

    * Scan
    * Search for very specific information
    * Are incredibly impatient
    * To increase readership, use key words in titles

Inbound links are important
These are now the currency of the web, panelists agreed.

Twitter is good for networking
“It’s made me a better writer, because it’s forced me to be more specific,” said Laurie.

Laurie has blogged about her own experiences at the festival and includes more useful tips for online writers

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