Tomorrow’s newspaper in Texas is a very different beast! With the increasing availability of instant news and information 24/7, the ‘news’ part of newspapers is rapidly morphing. If I want to know who did what when or what today’s big issue is, whether that be globally, nationally or locally, I have a seemingly unlimited choice of instant news services from which to choose. Even my old mobile phone grants me immediate internet access, meaning keeping up with the Jones’s has never been easier.
So why do we still have newspapers in Texas ? Everyone knows that circulation is plummeting, but a few of us die-hards believe there will always be print. Why? Because it is comfortable. The Y-Gens are still buying their magazines and books because they also enjoy that relaxing slump on the couch with a drink, snacks and an engaging read. The operative word here of course is engaging!
When writing a feature story, one of the first things you must consider is the target audience. Is it for the general public or is it for a specific group of readers? If you are writing for the readers of a lifestyle magazine or for the lifestyle section in the newspaper, for example, you would need to consider whether you should write from the view of a third person or second?
Most feature stories are written from the third person. Exceptions where the second person is used instead is when the story is about 'what you should get', say, for an occasion or a festive season. Seldom is the first person used for feature writing except when the author is the narrating his or her own experience.
Take for example the first paragraph of a feature story on entrepreneurship written in the third person:
- John lost his job two years ago due to the economy downturn. Believing it to be only temporary, he actively seeks employment while upgrading his skills through short-term courses. Today, he is still unemployed. Now at the age of 41, he is forced to consider self-employment and entrepreneurship but is hesitant because he has been an employee his entire working life.
If this first paragraph is written in the second person, it would read:
- You have been an employee your entire working life. Two years ago, you lost your job due to the economy downturn. Believing the downturn to be only temporary, you actively seek employment while upgrading your skills through short-term courses. Today, you are still unemployed.
As you can read from the two approaches, the third person's voice draws the readers into the story better than the second person because there is no need for personal involvement in the story unless it is a call to action. It works fine to use the second person if you are writing for a lifestyle magazine showcasing shopping goods, but not quite fine for a news feature story that aims to convey a message containing facts and advices.
When writing for a news feature story, four components should be considered: anecdotes, quotes, facts, and statements of theme.
An anecdote in a news feature story should be written from a third person as the narrator. The purpose of this is to use content 'pull' to attract readers to a sense of reading a novel or a storybook. For a feature story to be successful, at least one anecdote should be included to help readers visualize the 'reality' of a situation or the life of the person being told in the anecdote.
A feature should also include facts and quotes for angles of human interest. Facts may be research finding that quantify the content of the story, official statistical figures, or actual events witnessed by people:
- According to official figures from the manpower department, unemployment is now at 4.5 percent.
Quotes are actual account of events by witnesses or spoken comments of people interviewed. Quotes can be direct or indirect. For a feature story to be credible and interesting, both direct and indirect quotes are necessary.
A direct quote is the actual spoken words by persons interviewed:
- "I have been an employee my entire working life," said John Doe, 41, a retrenched worker.
An indirect quote is a paraphrased or rephrased writing of actual words spoken by persons interviewed:
- John Doe, 41, said he has been an employee his entire working life.
Statements of theme are sentences that links original theme of the story to various parts of the feature. This is especially useful when there are multiple sections or story points that need to be expanded in different areas of the feature. The objective of statements of theme is to draw the readers back to the main theme of the story.
The feature story is usually written with each paragraph pulling the readers forward to read on to the point of closure or a conclusion or instructions to proceed further. It is usual to end the story by drawing the readers' attention back to the points being told at the lead paragraph, but with added knowledge on the subject.
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Tomorrow's newspaper is a very different beast! With the increasing availability of instant news and information 24/7, the 'news' part of newspapers is rapidly morphing. If I want to know who did what when or what today's big issue is, whether that be globally, nationally or locally, I have a seemingly unlimited choice of instant news services from which to choose. Even my old mobile phone grants me immediate internet access, meaning keeping up with the Jones's has never been easier.
So why do we still have newspapers? Everyone knows that circulation is plummeting, but a few of us die-hards believe there will always be print. Why? Because it is comfortable. The Y-Gens are still buying their magazines and books because they also enjoy that relaxing slump on the couch with a drink, snacks and an engaging read. The operative word here of course is engaging!
Newspaper magnates are scrambling madly like a flock of geese in hunting season, desperately seeking new ideas from pricy consultants to engage their disparate audiences as subscription and print-ad revenues nose dive. The really big end of town is buckling under its own ancient weight, stunned in the headlights of a much faster moving information superhighway. The choice is change or die.
But change for these guys is tough. They are often fourth or fifth generation family moguls who know little else beyond the print world. "Ok, we've built our website...now what?" The smart players are restructuring their offices in information-centric floor plans where a byte of news travels simultaneously to each media team where it is chopped, shaved, spiced and uploaded to the net, print production, radio, TV, mobile etc. The not-so-smart are sacking staff and closing shop, or even worse shaking their heads, holding their nose, closing their eyes and hoping the naughty internet thingy will just go away.
So the stage is set for a media revolution, where only the smart and nimble will triumph. Such a scenario has opened the door for the smaller players, who were previously excluded from the game owing to costly entrance fees and ruthless incumbents. Now however, powerful publishing software is extremely affordable, putting everything up for grabs. The little guys are redefining an archaic industry.
Over the past five years thousands of localised 'news' websites have sprouted around the world. Some with significant venture capital funding, some dabbling off-shoots of the big companies, others simply built by community minded individuals. The spin on these sites tends to be user-generated content, or 'citizen journalism', whereby locals tell their own stories, report on events that might otherwise be overlooked by mainstream media, or simply weigh in with an opinion or rebuff.
In 2004 'The Word' newspaper was launched in Canberra, Australia. At the time this was the first tabloid in the world to be written entirely by its readers, circulating 35000 gloss covered copies monthly to 900 sites across Australia's capital city. The beauty about this model was not only that content was free, but that it evoked immediate loyalty. Anyone who got an article published in print, or knew someone else who got published, inevitably showed friends.
But could we really call this a newspaper? Was it more like a magazine? A newszine? A yarnpaper? A plog (printed blog)? Whatever it was, it carried $30,000 of advertising in every issue and another $1000 p/m of online ads! It engaged its readers. As the adage proclaims, get your content and distribution right and the advertisers will follow.
So we come back to content, the 'news' in newspapers. With the eruption of online commerce we are witnessing a turning point for content. Earning money online is all about 'eyeballs' - getting traffic to your site. Unfortunately the very same freedoms we cherish about the internet also drown us in spam and crap content. Waving a flag above the dumping grounds of useless and tedious content is becoming quite an art, a trade to which professional and novice authors are gravitating in droves.
Content will soon be entirely free! Already the industry is filling with content conduits, like Ezine Articles, Squidoo, Wordpress, Twitter and plenty more. Authors upload their articles, as I will do with this article, to these newly forming content kings. These kings then push the content to relevant members who have flagged certain interests in membership profiles. These members then publish that content into their own websites or publications.
But where is the money in all this? Well the conduits charge for premium privileges for both authors and publishers and the authors charge for...hmmm...that's right, nothing! And that is why this is so beautiful - there really is something in it for the author - reputation. Prolific and intelligent authors can now get their message out there faster than ever and gain hundreds of thousands of readers overnight, which translates to hundreds of thousands of eyeballs back at the author's website wanting more. Another name for this phenomenon is 'content marketing', whereby the author creates positive, informed conversations around products or services.
Pulling together these clues, tomorrow's newspaper is looking more like a hybrid of blogs, magazines, newspapers, forums and books. It is a disposable, stylish freebie, with likely a gloss cover and smaller than a tabloid so that it can be folded into the back pocket. It survives entirely on advertising and addresses in one sweep a bunch of interest sets that are beyond news. The stories are the neighborly conversations over the back fence. Opinions are rife from front cover to the last page. Articles inform the evermore discerning readers of the pros and cons of a wide range of products and services, toward generating trust first, not the sale. If you want the latest news, open your iPhone. If you want a bunch of stories, pictures and meanderings, pick up your local musepaper!
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