10 things you should know before starting a career in digital journalism

This post is ahead of a lecture I’m giving this week at the University of Greenwich on digital journalism. Despite the below, I still actually think it’s the best job in the world – but I also think you should know these 10 things before getting into it…

1. You have to be insanely good at working out an angle. Not in the print way, where every newspaper is covering the same scandal or report and you need to find an original top line. In the way that your editor will give you a dodgy picture of a Kardashian/Jenner at least once a day and tell you to get 300 words out of it. People who succeed in digital journalism can angle the shit out of anything.

2. Everyone is obsessed with analytics. Page views, uniques, bounce, search – these words become a prominent part of your vocabulary and a story’s success is defined by its reach. Initially it’s heartbreaking (fact: the truly artful stuff never does any significant traffic) but then you fall down the Google Analytics/Omniture/Chartbeat rabbit hole and hey presto! You’re obsessed too.

3. A keen disregard for trolls is advised. Seriously, do not read the comments under your stories. People are mean as fuck.

4. Don’t ever use the term “new media”. For whatever reason, it just makes everyone who’s been working in digital for over a decade slightly hate you.

5. On the whole, no one in print really gets what you do. In turn, you’ve no idea how they fill their time just with writing stories. So it’s swings and roundabouts.

6. Picture research is everything. Seriously, you’ll spend half your time searching Getty/PA for a picture of Kate Middleton five years ago you’re certain exists and the other half trying to figure out which picture of X celeb would get the most clicks. And no, about 70% of the time there is no picture desk (you’re the picture desk. And the news editor. And the social media manager. Yep.)

7. You become so skilled, so quickly you don’t even realise it. Until people start headhunting you, and that’s fun.

8. When #facebookdown, #twitterdown or #Instagramdown happens, you’re like…

9. But then again, when your stories get a zillion hits you’re like…

10. Because having that kind of reach is amazing, meaning being in digital journalism is pretty cool.


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