If you are looking for inspiration as a writer, you can always fall back on the 8 primary news values.
Recently, I’ve had a few people email me and ask how they can make their writing more interesting. While I don’t generally think of myself as a creative person, I do try to make things somewhat interesting — or at least applicable. As I pondered this question, I once again turned to the old standby: Journalism.
When trying to decide whether or not something is “newsworthy” there are 8 factors that going into the decision. These are sometimes called news values. The 8 primary news values can provide you with insight into whether or not something is likely to be interesting.
What are the 8 Primary News Values?
Using the 8 primary news values as a guide can help you turn something mundane into something interesting, and it can also help you recognize something that might be of interest to your audience. A piece of information doesn’t need to have all 8 factors to be interesting, but, as you might imagine, the more it possesses, the more interesting it is likely to be. A story, post, or article that includes one of the 8 values is probably interesting enough. But if you really want to grab the interest of your readers, look for something that has three or more of the values. The recent SCOTUS ruling on the 2010 health care reform law is a good example, since it incorporates several of the news values.
Here are the 8 primary news values:
- Impact: How many people is this going to affect? The larger the event or trend, the more newsworthy it is.
- Timeliness: Recency matters. This is also one of the reasons that there is so much emphasis on being “first.” You don’t want the information to be stale. For blogging, this isn’t always important, since many freelance bloggers need to focus more on being evergreen, although a little time-sensitive information thrown in doesn’t hurt on occasion.
- Prominence: This news value recognizes how well-known the players are. Well-known institutions, companies, and people are newsworthy because they are so prominent in society. Think celebrities, politicians, big companies, and major universities. Readers like to know what’s happening with this major players.
- Proximity: How close is the event or the information to your audience. You don’t have to limit proximity to geography, either. Emotional proximity matters. I may not be close to the wildfires raging through the West (not close enough to evacuate, anyway), but people I am emotionally interested do live in those areas. I worry about my friends and relatives, so there is an element of proximity in terms of my emotions.
- Oddity: The bizarre always makes for an interesting bit of information. Something unusual or unorthodox is very attention-grabbing. People are interested in the strange and different.
- Currency: Related to timeliness, currency is more about momentum. It’s a build up in an idea that seems to be everywhere. You can float along the tide, and share your two cents. A good example from the personal finance blogosphere was when Suze Orman insulted PT Money over his review of her lackluster prepaid debit card. For a few days, the momentum meant that everyone was talking about the flap, and posting about it.
- Human interest/entertainment: In some cases, an interesting bit of information doesn’t really fall into the categories above. Instead, it has more of a human interest or entertainment value. Cute pets doing cute things falls into this category. We scoff at stories about animals, but people eat them up. Additionally, the human interest factor comes into play when you take a local teen’s service project and report on it. It’s not got a huge impact, but people (especially relatives) are interested in reading about it.
As you put together your posts, articles, and stories, think about these news values. Consider how many values the information has, or how you can add a twist to inject a few more values.