Week 11 (3/5) Writing for a small screen: guidelines

“Seriously, why do you still have an iPhone?” by opensourceway is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

First, we haven’t done it for a while, let’s do a news quiz!

For Newsroom, you can create content for the weekly radio show, including social media posts, or anything that you have a burning desire to create, including content for the small screen.

When writing for the small screen use these guidelines:

Tighter writing

  • No unnecessary words, phrases, sentences or points: include as much information as possible without a reader needing to swipe
  • Be concise: can some quotes be paraphrased? How much background is essential (can it be linked to?)
  • Shorter isn’t necessarily better: longer stories are popular on mobiles.

e.g. Unmatched: How Tinder fails to act on sexual assault (Four Corners/triple J, ABC)  Warning this article contains descriptions of rape

Tyrone Unsworth deserved better (Shannon Molloy, RendezView)

London terror attack witnesses note: 360 photos (News Corp)

Poison in the system (Buzzfeed News)

  • Short sub-headings (3-4 words) break up text – write sub-heads to set up what’s to come

Short, strong headlines

  • Headlines shouldn’t dominate screen space – a mobile screen has a ‘fold’ in the same way a broadsheet newspaper does. The headline shouldn’t get lost below the fold
  • Short headlines are easily viewed and understood without scanning
  • Use SEO-friendly key words


  • Grab your readers by the short and curlies in your lead
  • Reward them for swiping to read more – don’t be boring


  • Use shorter pars. Longer paragraphs appear much longer on a small screen – four lines on a desktop appears double the length on a mobile
  • For harder news stories, inverted pyramid-style news writing still works – give readers the story in the lead and the first couple of pars


  • A reader’s eye is drawn to photographs and other illustrations over text
  • If an image doesn’t add to or advance the story, don’t use it for mobile


  • A story can have a life beyond its expected one, especially a feature. Example: one tweet
  • Thinking beyond writing
  • What related content can we give readers?
  • Is there a video that makes sense added to the story? A map? An infographic?

Pitch a story idea for this week’s radio show. Remember your content can be social media posts, or you could write an article or online story and the hosts of the show could interview you about it.

The idea is to create content for your portfolio. By now your should have created more than half of your eight portfolio pieces.

Remember to save all the work you have done for the radio show to FINAL ASSESSMENTS / NAME / NEWSROOM / PORTFOLIO

Go, create!

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