To all journalists: I am not a cockroach

Ian Lurie

Tomorrow I’m going to be speaking to the ONA/SPJ meetup about SEO and social media. ONA is The Online News Association). SPJ is the Society for Professional Journalists. My typical relationship with journalists and their editors goes like this:

  1. Ian is a cockroach, only less evolved.
  2. Ian isn’t a bad guy, but he’s going to destroy my writing.
  3. Ian is a highly-evolved cockroach who can write. We won’t stomp on him.
  4. Ian is a writer who was tragically lured to the dark side.
  5. Ian may have something useful to say, if you listen real carefully and ignore the parts where his head spins around.

Since I’m only going to have an hour, everyone’s gonna have to fast-forward to stage five. So, I start here by begging for mercy: Read my message. Let it sink in. Then, tomorrow night, let’s talk.

What I’m going to say

As a good, East Coast squishy liberal, I obsess about the state of journalism and news organizations. As an internet marketer, I’m driven nearly insane by the way the said news organizations fed journalists into a wood chipper, feet-first, from 2000-2010, simply because the organizations refused to grasp the internet. As a writer, I know that one day Writers Will Rule The Earth, and I’m impatient, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

So, here are my big talking points:

  1. Journalists need to care about search engines.
  2. They need to understand why search engines exist, and how search engines think: Search engines want happy searchers.
  3. Searchers are happy when, by reading your stuff, they get what they want.
  4. More than any other writers, journalists write for their audience. So, give your readers what they want, the way they want it.
  5. For journalists, that’s what SEO is: Writing for your online audience.
  6. Writing for your online audience means being fully descriptive.
  7. Writing for your online audience means structuring content for easy scanning and reading.
  8. You also need to expand your influence. So…
  9. Journalists need to care about social media.
  10. Expand your influence on Twitter by becoming, not just a great writer, but a fantastic curator of content.
  11. Do the same thing on Facebook.
  12. Google’s Panda, plus the ability to go around Google via Facebook and Twitter, present a new opportunity you haven’t seen since 2002.
  13. You have more of the required skills than any other professional on the planet. You write. You curate. You inform & compel. You can steamroll halfwitted content sweatshops.

I expect lots of great questions from the audience, too. But there you have it: My message to journalists. It’s time to kick some ass.

Other stuff


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Being cockroach is not a bad thing right, its the only living species to survive atomic bombing 🙂
    Jokes apart, I liked your way of presenting the nutshell/core part of the talk.
    I am sure its gonna be a definite hit.
    The journalists who has realized the importance of SEO survives and so does their publishers. The rest either need to grow or perish.
    Thanks Ian for the article.

  2. I worked in the online advertising industry for a group of newspapers from 2000 – 2010 and you are correct the writers and the publishers had no idea the opportunity that was being presented to them. I truly believe many of them thought it might be a passing fad.
    I constantly banged my head against a wall that was the print industry. Just getting a user friendly design was and still is problematic at many newspapers (print founded), they still don’t “get it”. It was heartbreaking to see these great articles that just didn’t get out to the world like they could have.
    Ian I hope that you can spread the word that this is a great opportunity for some really great writers to continue the great news efforts that these journalists can offer.

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