Making the transition from print media to digital media can be be frustrating. Much about Web-based media is markedly different from print-media, but one thing remains constant: effective writers know their audiences and know how to connect with them.
Every writing class ever offered has stressed the idea of “voice.” It’s been drilled into everyone who wants to be taken seriously as a writer. However, until the writer makes the connection between audience and voice, they won’t find either. Voice isn’t what we send out; it’s what echoes back from our readers. Our voice will change from piece to piece and genre to genre. If it doesn’t, we won’t be effective.
If you want to know your own voice, you must know your audience. Never assume your audience is a reflection of you. They may not be. How old is your intended audience? Do they have a common interest or region? Our understanding of our audience, their motivations and needs, helps us to speak directly to them. Stephen King, arguably the most serialized author since Dickens, routinely refers to his audience as “Constant Reader,” thereby creating a familiarity and closing the distance between him and his readers. The term at once acknowledges the serial nature of his work as well as the loyalty of his readers. Whether or not you like his work, Stephen King has mastered the art of indentifying and connecting with his audience. By naming his collective readers, he is able to construct a schematic of his audience which guides him as he writes.
The best indicator of audience is the site you are submitting to. What sorts of advertisements are on the site? Locate the “About Us” link or the site’s mission statement, and read it. This will help to orient you to the site’s target audience. Do a Yahoo! search and see what others say about the site. Read some of the articles in the site’s archives. Spend some time reading the comments others have left. One writer’s criticism can be another’s helpful feedback. All these things are clues that will help you begin a conversation with your readers.
Don’t talk down to your audience, and don’t talk over their head either. You wouldn’t submit an article full of academic jargon to a gardening site; it’s the wrong audience. Instead, you’d submit using your neighborly voice, sharing a small part of who you are so your neighbors understand you. All writers soon discover that to have a voice, we have to have a conversation with our readers, not give them a lecture.
Take the time to get to know your audience, and you’ll hear your voice and begin the conversation.