How to use this journalist’s insider trick to optimize your website
The first thing that good reporters are taught in journalism school is that it is absolutely essential to prioritize and organize the information that you are about to impart to your audience. Generations of reporters have learned how to use a simple mental visual technique known as “The Inverted Pyramid” to reach out and grab the audience, and then hook them into reading the rest of their content.
I’ve updated this newsroom classic to cover the changes to storytelling that have been brought on by the internet. As you can see in the illustration below, that means putting the most important information at the top of your story and then adding supporting and related information after that. To update the Inverted Pyramid, I added the second, smaller pyramid to the bottom of this image, representing our ability to add links and multimedia to a written story to broaden the base for those who want to learn more.
Here are a few other tips from journalism school that will serve you well as you create content for the web:
- Get attention with a strong lead (a journalism term for the first paragraph, although real journalists deliberately misspell it as “lede” to differentiate it from, say, the heavy silvery metal that blocks radiation)
- Limit each paragraph or content package to one idea
- Use each paragraph to invite the audience to read the next paragraph
- Remember that the audience may stop reading/watching at any time
That last point is not new. Many people say you should write shorter on the web because people don’t read online.
I disagree. Some people read a lot, long form journalism is making a come back, but most of us skim text whether we read it on paper or online. That’s why the Inverted Pyramid is so important — online and off.
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