Many aspiring journalists, myself included, are caught in a Catch 22 – publications only want writers with experience, but until these publications enroll us, we will never have experience. In order to escape from this vicious cycle, it is crucial to ensure that your articles appeal to the masses, in order for publications to notice you.
The journalism industry spirals around networking. Amongst this intricate web of contacts, companies are looking for established names in the industry and it is thus highly important that you gain access to this web. Internships are the best way forward, but until someone enrolls you onto an internship program, you’ll still remain in the same position. However, fear not, as there are things you can do as you wait to hear back from applications.
Firstly, you must pitch articles for free. Offer your services to publications on a pro-bono basis. Try to find niche publications that match your interest and offer to write for them. Once you have a platform to write your articles on, you are then able to write killer articles that grasp the readers’ attention. I was fortunate enough to land an opportunity to blog on the Huffington Post, on which I can blog about anything and everything.
Unfortunately, it is not all plain sailing from here on. Although I can write anything and everything for the Huffington Post, I’ve come to notice that not all articles are well received. I write passionately about music that interests me, but as a result of my niche interest, the wider Internet cannot relate to the articles. This restricts the amount of traffic on my articles.
It is thereby important to make your articles stand out. But how?
You need to find the balance between writing about something that will appeal to a significant majority but is not already covered to death by other writers. My advice here would be to write about personal experiences and not necessarily personal preferences. Everyone has their own individual preferences that are shared by many, but even more people share the same experiences as you.
For example, I wrote a review on The Rolling Stones’ reissued edition of their 70’s classic, Sticky Fingers. It has always been a favorite of mine and I was thus excited to write about its reissue. The Rolling Stones are of course, an internationally famous band with an unparalleled legacy – logically, their fan base alone would back my article. Unfortunately, the article resulted in only 4 Facebook likes and 2 shares. It was clear that hundreds if not thousands of people had written reviews on this album. However, when I wrote an article about The Hives (an internationally recognized band, but with only a minute share of music fans compared to the Stones) and their performance at the Calling Festival, the article reached just under 4,000 Facebook likes and just under 250 shares. Clearly, The Hives are a lesser-known band than the Stones, but yet my article’s success beat the Stones article hands down. The difference between the two articles is simply that The Hives article was focusing on my experience of the gig rather than my opinion on the Stones’ album. The Hives themselves posted it on their Facebook page, which of course propelled the number of likes and widened the readership.
The cold truth is that as an unknown journalist, no one is really interested in what you think, but people do care if you share similar experiences with them. My advice is thereby to write from the perspective of your reader, not purely from yourself.