The Art and Business of Online Writing by Nicolas Cole [Summary]

Nicolas Cole is one of the most-read writers on the internet. No human on earth has accumulated more readers. And maybe no other human on earth has been so continuously productive in regards to online writing.

In the following paragraphs, you will find the main ideas, why it’s worth reading and my personal opinion on the book. And to spice it up a bit, I added a few of my visualizations to make the contents easier to digest.

I firmly believe the first six months on the internet, for any writer, should be spent exploring, practicing, and gathering data.

Nicolas Cole

Content Buckets

Cole divides the topics you should create content for into three buckets:

1. General Audience: Aims at universal topics, broad categories that resonate with a big audience of people. Show how those topics are individually important.

Personal Example: Personal Development, Habits, Goals, Productivity, Positivity, (Digital) Minimalism, Time Management

2. Niche Audience: Topics that are highly relevant to your expertise.

Personal Example: Online Marketing, Self-Employment, Consultancy, Entrepreneurship, (Content-)Marketers

3. Company/Industry Audience: Topics for the Environment and Industry you exist in.

Personal Example: (B2B) SEO, Software, Tools


The Endless Content Generator Table

Endless Content Idea Generator


Step 1: Choose one “Type” of Writing

  • Actionable Guide
  • Opinion
  • Curated List
  • Story
  • Credibility

Step 2: Choose an idea to communicate within that “Piece”

  • Explanation
  • Habits
  • Mistakes
  • Lessons
  • Tips
  • Stories
  • Timely Events

Step 3: Show a Reason why you’re a credible Source

  • First-Hand Expertise
  • Asked Experts
  • Best Opinion

Examples from the Book

  • “7 Founders Share their Biggest Mistakes Raising Money for Their First Startups.”
    = Credibility x Mistakes x Personal Experience
  • “I was a professional World Of Warcraft Gamer as a Teener. Here’s Why eSports is going to become a Multi-Million Dollar Industry.”
    = Credibility x Explanation x Personal Experience
  • “Our Economy is falling apart. Here’s what that looks like for someone living in a low-income Neighborhood.”
    = Opinion x Lessons x Perspective

More Examples added by me:

  • I’ve always been a lazy genius. 7 Reasons why I had to change in my late-20s. (Personal Experience x Lessons)

The Main Idea

If you want to be an Online Writer, you have to write in public.

Nicolas Cole

Platforms and Networks such as Quora, Medium, Publications, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are your biggest friends. By writing in public you remove the guesswork and add a layer of data instead. Data, that helps you understand which headlines, topics, formats and ideas resonate best with your audience.

Key Learnings

  • The most successful writers base their writing on Data (e.g. Mark Manson)
  • Practicing in public is what separates aspiring writers from professional writers
  • If you want to be an online writer, don’t start a blog first. Do it last.
  • Visual Formatting is just as, maybe even more important than what’s being said
  • Consistency is the most crucial factor for success
  • Divide Content into timely and timeless topics: resonating right now vs. forever

Things that could be improved

While I love the conversational style and overall structure of the book, I would have loved to see some visuals or graphics to add another content layer and to separate each of the chapters.

Cole’s opinion on SEO is quite outdated. I’m sure most writers that have written for publications have had bad experiences with SEO. But there’s a new way of doing things he’s not aware of, yet.

Links you might also like

actionable insides and guides
well structured and formatted
incredibly easy to read and digest
no graphics or visuals
4.9

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