Writers in traditional media eventually have to choose a genre to write in. No one can do everything, and so like every other profession, writers specialize. Some genres are defined by the type of settings and plots used, like horror, science-fiction, and fantasy. Others categories are defined by their content, like historical writings, academic works, and poetry. In new media we also have to specialize, but the genre’s are slightly different. This list will cover the basic categories of online writing.
1. Informational Blogging
By far the most popular of online content, informational blogs allow writers to share their interests, skills, and knowledge with interested readers. This is probably the easiest form of blog, as your own favorite subject is all you need to start out. Just pick something you know a lot about, from wine-making to stamp-collecting, and write short instructional pieces.
Writing news in an online world is a very different beast than writing for traditional media. Speed is of the essence, and deciding what kind of news you want to focus on is key. In addition to this, you must add content to your news, some sort of analysis or commentary, not just repeat your source. To get started covering news, pick a “beat”, a subject, field, area, or industry that interests you. Find your sources, which can be blogs and other social media as well as traditional sources. Find people online who are involved in your “beat” and try and establish contact with them, allowing you to hit them up for comments and thoughts…this is one place where social media and networking can really make a difference. Make sure to always cite your sources, linking to them when possible.
3. Fiction and Fan-Fiction
Many storytellers use their blog as their primary means of getting their writing out into the world. Whether you are writing your own stories from the ground up or using the characters and settings of someone else, you can make a name for yourself that will allow you to make the transition to selling your work to traditional publishers. Another tactic is to use your blog for short stories or short-short stories and then sell your longer works through e-books. If you are technically inclined you can create your e-books yourself, and if not you can use a service such as Lulu, which will allow you to convert your document and add a cover, as well as allowing you to sell printed copies on demand through your site or through retailers like Amazon.
4. Comedy and Parody
Technically a form of fiction, online comedy and parody can become viral like nothing else. Cracked, CollegeHumor, and the Onion are some of the most trafficked sites on the web because people love to laugh and the humor is quick, topical, and speaks to the concerns of the average netizen. However, not everyone can do funny, and you should consider deeply whether you can truly hack it. If so, pick your tactic and have at it, but the competition is steep. Also remember that, in comedy more than any other field, you have to make your content stand-out…while it is fine for just about every fantasy tale to include magic, the net just doesn’t need any more sites specializing in pictures of everyday things with humorous or absurd captions.
The internet is very big, and despite the best efforts of our overlords at Google, it is very hard to find what we want. This means that collecting lists of links, images, videos, and other content and summarizing why they are interesting is its own genre, with its own readers. While sites like Digg and Delicious have taken this genre and run with it, many subjects are obscure enough (and the web big enough) to make collections a very viable genre. Again, go for a niche, some subject that interests you and you can follow eagerly, and then simply collect the best content and summarize it for others. Collections can also be a good way to finish out a week of other posts by using a “best links of the week” theme.
6. Diaries, Opinions, and Rants
While this genre is hard to pull of well, some people really are interesting enough that their general thoughts can compell readers. This is a difficult call to make, because almost everyone thinks their own thoughts and opinions are interesting even though they are not. A good example of someone who can pull this off is Norimoto over at AvenueToTheReal, who blends humor and absurdity with serious social commentary and philosophical questioning. This kind of writing can be very cathartic, but beware: your readership may be low.
7. Reviews and Product Reports
Increasingly, people rely on other people rather than marketing to tell them about the products and services they want to buy. This means that if you happen to read a lot of books, go to a lot of movies, or buy a lot of gadgets, your personal experiences with them and expertise will help others get feedback and information about their interests. The Movie Space is a great example of a blog with multiple authors who have parlayed their collective knowledge of movies into some sizable traffic. Just like with an informational blog, pick something you are very interested in and have a great deal to say about…a book review that says “I liked it” or “It was boring” and nothing else will get little attention.
This list is meant to help you figure out not just how to write for new media, but what to write about. It is not definitive, as these categories are coming into existence and changing as you read this. If anyone can think of any genre’s or categories I may have missed, please let me know.