I really enjoyed The Copywriter's Handbook and was looking forward to hearing what Bly had to say about writing for the web. I'm a professional writer and I write primarily for digital media, so I was interested in seeing how Bly's strategies, which are usually framed in terms of print outreach, could be applied to web environments.
Maybe I was naive to hope that an ink-and-paper book could keep up with a fast-moving digital medium, but Bly is usually good at capturing those timeless rules of good communication. I hoped that's what I would find in this book, but I was deeply disappointed.
Embarrassingly basic and outdated, it's written as though the audience is a collection of elderly dodderers still struggling to figure out how to use a mouse. Any book on web writing that begins by explaining what a hyperlink is is not pitched at a human in the 21st century, let alone a competent writer looking to improve.
The author's seeming unawareness of fairly standard web technologies is frustrating, and it also affects the quality of the advice given. As an example, Bly advises against using splash pages on a site because they become tiresome to returning visitors. But it's very easy to solve this problem by personalizing the user experience, so new visitors see the splash page and returning visitors are ushered directly to the homepage.
The book is plumped with a lot of filler information not specifically relevant to the web. Proofreading your copy, eliminating sexist language, avoiding overly technical writing, and "showing instead of telling" are all smart things to do, but they're concepts that any writer in any medium will be familiar with already.
I lost confidence in this book within 30 pages, and ended up barely skimming the rest of the contents. From now on, for meaningful insights into writing for digital media, I'll be sticking to savvy online research organizations such as MarketingExperiments.com and MarketingSherpa.com.