Thursday, January 13, 2011

Describe your topic

Even if you are writing primarily for insiders, don’t just mention your topic; describe your topic. When you describe your topic, you help non-insiders and new insiders understand the context of what you are writing about.

Example 1 – how NOT to do it

Here are the first 150 words of an insider article (a post on an insider blog):

The impact of a Federally regulated Do Not Track registry has search engines and other online advertising vendors scurrying to self regulate. What steps are these online players implementing and why is the question.

As ClickZ has reported throughout this year, the IAB – Interactive Advertising Bureau – has set up a [sic] industry group to address this situation. They have even promoted Mike Zaneis to SVP and general counsel for the IAB initiative and he has presented their case internationally.

Adwords has added retargeting options earlier this year, which was seen as a solid new service that can only be done with tracking.

The FTC has released a report which should be read by all in our space. The initial decision is coming soon, possibly before Christmas and advertisers are hoping they are perceived as nice.

“By educating industry and presenting its case in regions including Asia and South America, the IAB…”

Example 2 – better

Here are the first 150 words of a Fortune magazine editorial:

The Internet is an awesome free-for-all of services and content. It’s also a terrifying space, one where bits of information about who you are and what you’re doing continually float around like cyber flotsam and jetsam, only to be picked apart by outside parties for their own devices. As a result, privacy is an issue. But would the Internet be a better place if a national registry existed to shield users from prying advertisers?

Late last month, FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz announced to a Senate panel that the commission would explore the idea of a Do Not Track list for online marketers. In theory, it would work similarly to the Do Not Call registry pushed through in 2004: users register for a list governed by the FTC or a private entity that prevents web marketers from collecting user information like say, user ISPs providers, screen size, browser version, and so…

Example 1 only mentions the idea of a Do Not Track list. It first hints but does not state that the list has already been set up, and later hints but does not state that the list has not been set up. It hints but does not state that the FTC is the federal agency involved in whatever has happened, is happening, or will happen.

Example 2 describes the idea of a Do Not Track list and states what the FTC has done so far. The example also includes historical background and some details.

The Takeaway: Even if you are writing primarily for insiders, spend a few words describing your topic. (Use direct statements; do not allude, imply, hint, skirt or pussyfoot.) Non-insiders and new insiders will understand the context. Your existing insiders will skip over the description while feeling superior. Everybody wins.

See disclaimer.

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