October 24, 2017

Think outside the pyramid

The traditional news structure fails readers

If I told you there was a communication tool that reduces readership, diminishes understanding and causes engagement to take a nosedive, would you use it?

Think outside the pyramid

If only the inverted pyramid were this colorful The traditional news structure gets ‘more boring as the reader reads down,’ according to a classic study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Image by Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ

Friends, there is such a tool, and I am afraid you are using it every day. It’s called the inverted pyramid. And, according to “Ways With Words,” a classic study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, it does “not work well with readers.”

The problem with the pyramid

“Ways With Words” researchers studied four story structures and found that traditional, inverted-pyramid stories:

  • “Do not work well with readers,” and “did not justify their predominance in today’s newspapers.”
  • Scored low in readership and understanding.
  • Made a mediocre showing in “involvement,” or whether the story made readers care about the news. (In our business, we call this “engagement.”)
  • Were the least effective at getting the reader to the jump of all story forms studied.

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“God is in the structure.”
— Richard Preston, author, The Demon in the Freezer

Shatter the pyramid

It’s time to find a better way

Readers say, “We stop reading after the first paragraph because you use the inverted pyramid.

Shatter the pyramid

Break the habit The pyramid’s not doing you, your readers, or your organization any good. Isn’t it time to try a different approach? Image by Image Catalog

Researchers for The Poynter Institute, the Readership Institute and The American Society of Newspaper editors agree: The inverted pyramid doesn’t work with humans. Even the Associated Press has announced that it is now sending out feature leads with each of its news stories.

The good news is, there is a story structure that can grabs readers’ attention, keeps it for the long haul and leaves a lasting impression. And you can master that more effective structure at Catch Your Readers — a two-day writing Master Class on April 20-21 in Atlanta.

There, you’ll learn three elements of a great lead (and five leads to avoid), five ways to avoid the “muddle in the middle,” and a three-step test for ending with a bang.

Just 27 tickets remain. Don’t miss out. Register now.

Register now

“Other writing coaches tell you what to do. Ann shows you how.”
— Roberta Laughlin, vice president, Mutual Funds Marketing, Northern Trust

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