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Journalism's Future, Writing For The Web, Adwords, and more with Business Pundit's Drea Knufken

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Good writing. Dynamic writing. Big Ideas. Forward-thinking journalism. Drea Knufken is what I like to call a visionary journalism entrepreneur. She understands the digital world, what it means to you and ways you can get involved right now. I recently had a chance to catch up with Drea and pick her brain on some big concepts.


1. You have written for a variety of sources, web and non-web. How has the Internet changed journalism?

In several ways. When you write a print article, you work with editors. Your work has to be revised or rewritten, sometimes several times, before the print outlet publishes it. Web writing, on the other hand, may or may not be edited.

As a blogger, for example, you publish posts without having another set of eyes check them first. If there’s some kind of mistake, it goes public. You have to fix things retroactively.

Print articles are also usually longer. To successfully write a good feature, for example, you have to devote a lot of time and energy getting interviews, quotes, numbers, and other forms of data. Many Web outlets, on the other hand, use shorter forms of writing.

People’s attention spans aren’t as long on the Web, so the idea is to make content scannable rather than something that readers can get absorbed in. The quality of a Web piece still has to be good, but writers use shorter paragraphs, lists, bullet points, and subheads much more often. This limits the amount of depth you can go into.

Oftentimes, the turnaround for producing Web articles is also much quicker. That means less thorough research, shorter articles, and less depth than print.

2. At one point you where phrase editing as an AdWords editorial specialist for Google. What does an AdWords editorial specialist do?

When I worked there, the role consisted of reviewing ads, optimizing them, and writing ad campaigns. Reviewing ads meant reading them over, looking for working links, content violations, bad grammar, that kind of thing. If we found anything that didn’t match Google’s policies, we would send an email back to the advertiser telling them what was wrong and how to correct the problem. The advertiser would then resubmit, and we’d check them again. Once approved, they would start running on Google.

Some people start campaigns, then Google suspends them for poor performance. We provided optimization as a service to those kinds of advertisers, and to people who requested it. Optimizing ads meant revising people’s ad campaigns to make their keywords were more relevant, their ad text more attractive, and suggest new ways of advertising their product. The optimizations were supposed to help people’s campaigns work better.

Some advertisers just used Google to write their ad campaigns in the first place, as a sort of full-service thing. We did that, too.

3. Any advice for entrepreneurs looking to get involved with AdWords? How important is the copy?

Some advertisers expect instant results from AdWords. Oftentimes, this is not the case. Building a successful AdWords campaign takes work, experimentation, and clever budgeting. Even after all that work, AdWords might not be right for you. It works fantastically for some people, but doesn’t work at all for others.

As far as copy goes, think relevance. Google likes keywords that match your product description. Also, your ad copy should match your keywords. For example, if you rent tools, running on the keywords “tool rental” is a great idea. It’s relevant. However, running on “tools” is a bad idea. In that case, you are competing against people who sell tools, manufacture tools, trade tools…you get the idea. Relevance is key.

Before starting an AdWords campaign, take time to brainstorm possible niches. Use the Keyword Traffic Estimator (KTE) to estimate each keyword’s traffic and cost per click (CPC). It is better to use several lower-cost niche keywords than one really expensive keyword.

For example, if you are running a tool rental business, “tools” will cost you more than $1/click. The KTE estimates that to maintain a top search position, you will have to pay more than $8,000/day! That’s not sustainable for most people.

So you have to brainstorm further. Your niche is tool rentals. The KTE estimates that “rent tools” will only cost up to $7/day. “Saw rental” costs up to $4/day. These niche keywords might not attract as much traffic, but they give you highly-ranked, more targeted search results for much less money. As a result, your clickthrough rate and conversion rate have a good chance of higher, but your costs will be lower.

Put your keyword in your title. For example, the keyword “rent tools” would do well with “Rent Tools” as the title. If you have many ad campaigns, consider using the dynamic keyword insertion tool. It allows you to insert your keyword into the title and ad text through a simple syntax command: {Keyword:default text}. For details on how to use it, read this Google help page.

Finally, run your ads. See what’s working. Build more campaigns around that. Scrap the campaigns that don’t work. Follow your conversion rates month-by-month. Figure out what seasons and days of the week you get the most traffic. Continue to tweak your campaign. Eventually, you will hit a formula that works. It’s different for everybody.

4. What does good web writing look like? Does it have to be shorter than say the typical magazine article?

Yes, Web articles are generally shorter, unless you’re writing for an online magazine like Slate or Salon. Good Web writing, like good print writing, contains a compelling headline, hook, and original content. The Internet won’t turn a bad writer into a good one. You have to know the craft in either case.

However, good Web writing needs to respond to people’s needs as they browse online. One of the main reasons people use the Web is to find answers. Writers respond to that need by creating how-to articles, fact sheets, analyses, and other kinds of authoritative information sources.

A good Web writer knows how to create authoritative, factual, and entertaining articles. Ideally, readers will grow to trust the writer, and return to the website again and again.

Another key to creating good online content is making it visually appealing. People tend to scan online content. If it something doesn’t catch their eyes in a matter of seconds, they move on.

Writers need to arrange content in a visually appealing way. That means shorter paragraphs, lists, bullets, subheads, bold/italicized content, and images. It also usually means a shorter overall piece. As a writer, you want to support the scanning experience while providing top-notch content.

Finally, writers need their work to be seen. That means catering to search engines. I wouldn’t take this to extremes—I’m sure you’ve seen some content that sounds ridiculous as a result of search engine optimization—but it is an important factor, especially if you’re just starting out.

Search engine optimization means repeating keywords in your article’s title and in the body. This is an art form. You want to write an article that appeals to both humans and search engines, in that order.

Integrate SEO artfully. Appeal to search engines, but write for people. They will pay you back with links and repeat visits.

5. Tell us a bit about one of your projects: Business Pundit. What is the idea behind it?

Business Pundit is a general business blog that provides news, opinion, advice, and humor. We cover a variety of areas, so you may find tips on investing one day, and stories about CEOs the next. The idea is to provide broad business coverage and analysis for a large, diverse audience.

Specifically, we post 3-5 times per day. Every day, we try to find some of the most interesting, happening content on the Web. We comment on the news, and link you to places where you can find more information. We also publish lists, opinion pieces, interviews, and more in-depth articles. Adding Business Pundit to your RSS reader will help you round out your daily business info fix.

6. A lot of young and young-at-heart entrepreneurs are looking to start a blog of some kind. What advice would you give them?

Give it a try! Don’t be intimidated. Blogs are great resources. If done right, they can really enhance your business’s visibility and legitimacy, too. Here’s my advice.

1.    Decide why you want to start a blog. The Internet is full of abandoned blogs. Stating your intent as a blogger will help you stay focused on keeping it alive. Write down a plan for your blog. Revise the plan as your audience grows. Heck, you could even end up making money off your new blog site.

2. Find a free blogging software that you like. I recommend WordPress. Select a design that you like. Set up links to your company and personal biography.

3. Blog regularly. If writing every day intimidates you, start by writing once a week. Aim for 2-3 quality, interesting posts a week. If you want to post every day, great! If not, focus on staying regular and consistent. Prioritize quality over quantity.

4. Build a community. Find other bloggers who inspire you or share information that you like to read. When you have something to say, comment on their posts. Email them to introduce yourself. Ask to exchange links. Build a relationship with a select group of people over time. Participate in carnivals and guest posting. These activities will help you and your blog gain recognition.

Have fun!

7. How do you believe journalism will change over the next 5 years? What sorts of things should we expect to “Rise To The Top?”

Most print newspapers will die. Those that survive will be high-quality and have a loyal and/or specialized audience. Magazines will also thin significantly, but some will survive.

Media outlets will become more collaborative and integrated with social networks. I see crowdsourcing and microfunding becoming more common ways of acquiring news, fact-checking, and even getting articles written.

“Real” reportage will stay intact for really big, important stories. These take time and effort to research. They need to be completed by professionals. Newspapers will find a way to pay for those kinds of stories.

Media outlets will find new ways to make money. They will get into different kinds of media. They may host conferences and workshops. They could try charging for news on mobile devices. They will open up online platforms to developers, and integrate monetization opportunities into that.

I also see multimedia—including social media—integration on most sites. I’m sure the government will increasingly try to regulate the Internet, too. It won’t always be the Wild West out here. But while it is, I would encourage entrepreneurs to find innovative ways of acquiring and reporting news. As media conglomerates retrench, new opportunities exist for innovative start-ups. I listed a few innovative media outlets here:


Drea Knufken is the senior writer at She runs a Web- and print content production business. Find out more about Drea at Read her content daily at

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8 Steps to Turning What You Already Know into a Successful Online Course

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