Feature structure outperforms traditional news format
“Prose is architecture,” said Ernest Hemingway. “It’s not interior design.”
When you write, you’re building something. Specifically, when you’re writing email messages, you’re building an argument.
So what organizing structure would make the best foundation for your message?
Trade your pyramid for feature structure.
More than 25 years of research tells us that while the inverted pyramid works beautifully for distributing information over a telegraph wire, it does not work so well with a little subset of your audience known as humans.
Here’s a quick survey:
- The inverted pyramid was invented during the Civil War — for use on the telegraph wire. Does this 150-year-old hierarchical blurtation of facts really make the most sense for your contemporary blog posts, webpages and online content?
- The pyramid does “not work very well with readers,” according to the Ways With Words study. It reduced readership, understanding and engagement, among other things.
- Feature-style stories outperform traditional news stories in readership, satisfaction and image, according to the Impact study. “There is strong evidence that an increase in the [number] of feature-style stories has wide-ranging benefits,” write the researchers.
- The Associated Press is backing away from the inverted pyramid. The godfather of the pyramid is embracing the feature and foregoing its classic Joe Friday “just the facts, ma’am” style. The feature delivers more context — and attention, AP leaders say.
- Feature stories get shared more often, according to the Reuters Institute. While news stories make up the bulk of the content on three European news sites, most of the most-shared stories are features.
- Features increased reading by 520%, readers by 300% in an A/B test by Groove HQ. Simply adding an anecdotal lead caused nearly three times as many people to scroll to the bottom of the post and increased time on page by more than five times.
- The inverted pyramid is “the worst form ever invented for explaining something to another person in words,” according to a Poynter Institute scholar. That’s because it’s so hard to understand and remember.
- The inverted pyramid is the “anti-story,” akin to starting Cinderella with the wedding scene. “It tells the story backward and is at odds with the storytelling tradition,” experts say.
Still married to the pyramid? It’s time to start flirting around with another form.
How can you reach email recipients on mobile?
Problem is, reading your email newsletter on the small screen is like reading War and Peace through a keyhole. It’s not easy to get the word out on a 5.5” rectangle.
So how do you reach recipients via email newsletters and marketing promotions?
Find out at Think Inside the Inbox — our email-writing workshop, starting on Dec. 12.
You’ll leave with tricks, tips and techniques for writing emails that get opened, read, clicked and shared.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.