When I was learning journalism I was always told that a feature, news story or anything else needed a hook. It absolutely had to have something for the reader to hang it on – a reason for them to read on.
Mostly this meant some sort of topicality. Lately this has changed. I still see journalists on various social media platforms complaining that something isn’t timely, it doesn’t seem relevant to anything happening immediately and that it’s otherwise unhelpful.
OK, so far so good – but what’s happening out in the slightly more real world?
What’s happening is that although people are still reading news they’re also reading a whole load of timeless stuff. Not so much the celebrity interview that purports to be timeless but we all know it’s based on the release of a movie or book, but the genuinely timeless stuff. How many blog entries have you opened recently that consisted of lists? “Five mistakes made by marketers”, “Three ways to attract more followers”, you know the sort of thing. The smart money says the readers love lists, although I have my doubts myself (maybe people are wising up to click-getting titles or maybe I’m just not very good at composing lists).
Or they consist of a title with a question – if you’re reading this blog the chances are that you clicked attracted by just such a question.
I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that the problem isn’t actually topicality and perhaps it never was. The problem is that some people send out press releases, blogs, social media entries or whatever they’re writing, with no regard to whether they’re all that interesting. There have always been elements of this, even before the online world. It’s blandness, not whether or not something is relevant right now, that’s the enemy of good content. You still need a hook to get the reader interested, but it doesn’t have to be something desperately current any more. Interesting and relevant will do.
So how many of your efforts lately have fulfilled that criteria – and have any of them been fillers just because you thought you ought to send something out, maybe even with a news story vaguely tied in?
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