Words of wisdom


Cliff 2By Cliff Moore, Account Director, Deep South Media

I was at a talk by Guardian columnist Tim Dowling the other day – at the Larmer Tree Festival, since you ask, where he had previously been performing as the banjo player in the excellent bluegrass, folk and country band Police Dog Hogan.

He spoke about his work as a columnist for the newspaper Saturday edition’s Weekend Magazine in which he chronicles the ups and downs of family life.

It’s not exactly a sideways look at life, more a look at a sideways life as American Tim regales readers with tales of DIY disasters, dying dogs, complicated children and interesting relationship situations.

He jazzes it up, of course, and somewhat glories in his misfortune (a smug ‘where did it all go right’ column about a perfect life of course wouldn’t last five minutes), but it always makes for an interesting weekend diversion – and seeing him in the flesh has enhanced future reading.

However, I digress. One of the things Tim mentioned – and I don’t think I’m writing out of turn here as it came up in an open forum – that he is also contracted to provide 55,000 words a year for Guardian 2, the paper’s feature-led second section.

That set me thinking about words. Here at Deep South Media they are our lifeblood – along with strong images following the appearance of award-winning photographer Paul Collins as Head of Visual here – and the DSM team of professionally-qualified journalists works with them all day, every day.

Now, 55,000 words sounds like a huge amount – this blog has 469 and has taken me at least 10 minutes (as you can probably tell) – but at a little more than a thousand a week, 55,000 is not that many compared to what is churned out in this office.

DSM’s crew of galley slaves typing away furiously at red hot laptops generates enough power to light up a small town by churning out words of wisdom on behalf of many and varied clients.

However, the numbers game is not what it is all about. Quality, not quantity is the issue. Readers will be disinclined to read 3,000 words about the latest news from Company X even more so than media outlets would consider publishing them.

As my colleague Ron Wain adroitly pointed out in his most recent blog, we live in a fast-moving world. And it’s one in which people simply don’t have time to read properly (actually, they do; they pretend otherwise to make themselves appear more interesting).

Nevertheless, the mantra remains – grab ’em (the reader that is) with some brilliantly-crafted words and hold ’em for as long as possible until they drift off. Getting the message across quickly is paramount.

So, brevity – and a decent picture – is the key to success.

And, since neither seems present here, I’ll take my leave.