Ask Amanda About Marketing – Episode 17: Extra! Extra! Here’s What Makes Content Newsworthy

Have you ever read something and thought: And I just read this…why?

, Ask Amanda About Marketing – Episode 17: Extra! Extra! Here’s What Makes Content Newsworthy


The element of newsworthiness isn’t just for newspapers (cue gasp). It also serves as a wonderful guide for content marketing that will engage your target audience.

Now, if you’ve never taken journalism classes, you might not even be familiar with this concept. So we’re going to throw it back to Journalism 101 and help you out by telling you what makes content newsworthy.

In this episode, I discuss how you can implement 6 characteristics of newsworthiness:

1. Timeliness

Just because something isn’t already trending doesn’t mean it’s not providing value that is timely for your target audience. Try to view this characteristic on a broader spectrum and ask yourself, what does my target audience need right now?

2. Proximity

People are naturally more interested in a topic if it’s close to home. Think about how the information you’re providing can apply to people in different areas and see what new information you can reveal when taking that approach.

3. Significance

There are two questions to ask yourself to make sure your content applies to your target audience: How many people is this going to impact? How many people will want/need to hear about this?

4. Novelty/Originality

Let’s face it: Weird news is fascinating to us. Based on one of Fractl’s studies, surprise is an emotion that is highly effective when deciding whether or not to share content.

5. Prominence/Fame

Again, think outside the box. Try to move outside of your vertical and think about what is currently popular that can be tied to your brand. Take into consideration the type of audience you are trying to reach.

6. Data Journalism

Trends exist in large amounts of data. This gives you the opportunity to discover the story in your data. Find these trends and it will give you a unique leverage.

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, Ask Amanda About Marketing – Episode 17: Extra! Extra! Here’s What Makes Content Newsworthy

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Full Transcript:

Welcome to Ask Amanda About Marketing, a podcast in which I, Amanda, or occasionally a special guest, answers your questions about inbound marketing. Straightforward, right? If you want to submit a question, email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get right to it.

I have had so much fun having guests on the show recently. But today it’s just going to be me. That’s because I want to dedicate an episode to something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time, which is: what makes content newsworthy? I think I’ve mentioned this on a previous episode, but I actually have a degree in journalism and one of the things that struck me about, kind of the bridge between journalism and content marketing, is this concept of newsworthiness.

And in journalism, there are several characteristics that you study that help define what that term kind of means. We understand that the content should have a “news” factor to it. But what defines “news?” What is news? What makes something worthy of being reported on?

So in this episode, I’d love to run through some of these qualities or characteristics of newsworthiness and explain how you can apply them to the content you’re creating, whether you’re trying to build brand awareness or increase traffic to your site or develop a really high quality blog. I think you’ll find a lot of value and kind of distilling the word “newsworthiness” down into what it actually means.

I want to start with the characteristic of timeliness. I think this is what a lot of people immediately assume newsworthy means when they hear the word because “breaking news,” or news of that type, falls under the timeliness characteristic and timeliness is huge. However, as you know, as a content marketer, timeliness doesn’t always mean that something has to be happening right now—something in pop culture or something already in the news—needs to be happening right now in order to be newsworthy.

However, it’s always a nice bonus and there’s a lot of evergreen content that kind of makes that point—just because something isn’t already trending right this second, it doesn’t mean that it’s not providing value in a way that is timely for your target audience.

So I challenge you to think of timeliness in a broader sense. So let’s talk about that. Let’s break that down first. There’s the kind of traditional form of timeliness. There’s something happening in the world, in your neighborhood, in your industry, that if you talk about it if you address it in a new perspective or using a new data set, publishers and your audience (and really anybody who’s interested in this topic to begin with) is going to be more likely to consume your content because it’s already timely. It’s already out there and people want to know more about it. They want to know what an authority has to say about it.

So there’s that level of timeliness that’s really impactful when you’re creating content. But there’s also the kind of timeliness in that, if you’re trying to create content for a target audience (maybe your potential customers or your current customers), there’s the kind of timeliness in which you’re asking yourself: What is it they need right now? Or, what is it they’ll need soon and how can I provide them the answers to that? So any of these forms of timeliness can be extremely impactful.

In terms of a tip for actually making timely content, I recommend using tools like Buzzsumo to search for topics that you’re hoping to write about and see what’s already trending. What articles have come out recently? What are they about and how popular are they? Then, by examining what’s already doing well, ask yourself: What is it about this topic that hasn’t been talked about? Or, what can I bring to the table that’s better than what’s already out there?

Anything you do in this nature—something that’s already trending, something that people are already consuming that you can provide more value to—definitely do that. And then in the process, you’re even finding out what publishers like talking about this content and that’s just an added bonus. If you’re planning to do promotions, if you’re planning to pitch this content to different publishers, you have an idea of which sites are also on this trend.

And just a quick note: whether you’re at an agency or on an in-house team, don’t feel pressured to comment on breaking news with your content. Sometimes if news has just broken and all the news sites are picking it up, they won’t need a lot of other information. By the time you get the content done and approved by, you know, the teams in-house or your client, it’s too late and you don’t ever want to be in that position.

So there’s a difference between reacting to news that just hits the scene and kind of is talking about the same thing, like repackaging that news or providing a new fresh perspective related to that news. And that’s what I would highly encourage doing.

And then the best option is breaking your own news. Collecting your own data sets, revealing new insights. This is the best way to be timely because you’re the one creating the news so you’ll obviously be the one who’s ahead of the timeliness curve.

I’ll give you an example of something we did at Fractl which was this campaign called Perceptions of Perfection, which we did for our clients Superdrug Online Doctor. What we did was, we took an image of woman, a stock photo, and we asked graphic designers from countries all over the world to touch up the photo based on what they thought the beauty standards of their country were.

We got the results and yes, this isn’t necessarily—you know, taking an image and then re-photoshopping it or whatever—isn’t necessarily a trending thing right now, it’s not necessarily a trending methodology. However, the topic of body image and women and culture has been an ongoing popular discussion. So think of it that way as well. Timeliness can just mean that an overall topic has been talked about a lot and contributing more to that conversation can go a long way. I mean, we got a lot of incredible links from that placement, from that media placement, and I think 900,000 social shares. So that just goes to show you how far it can go when you execute content really well in a new, innovative way while also leveraging a topic that’s being talked about a lot.

The next characteristic I want to talk about is proximity or localization. This basically means that when you’re talking about any topic, people are going to inherently be more interested if it’s close to home, which I know that’s a phrase but it actually literally applies here too. If something’s happening around you—I mean think about this is like the whole function of local news. If there’s a pothole on a major road near your neighborhood, you might care a lot more than somebody in Kansas would care—assuming you don’t live in Kansas.

So localization is really important to think about and from a content marketing perspective, if your target audience is only in one specific place, you definitely need to be thinking about this. This should be one of your primary considerations when deciding what kind of content to pursue. Even if you’re a national or international brand or you’re making content for a very wide geographically diverse audience, think about how the information you’re providing can apply to people in different areas. At Fractl, [looking at] the content we create, we found that we get a ton of success when we break things down geographically, when we look at maps of the United States and see how information difference between states or between cities. Because people are fascinated by what’s going on around them and what is different between what’s happening near them and what’s happening near others.

So the takeaway here is if you’re working with a big dataset or you have information that you think might differ geographically, explore that. See what new information you can unveil if you take that approach.

The third characteristic I want to touch on is called significance and maybe that sounds a little obvious. Okay, obviously, we want to talk about things that are significant. So how do you take that word and really define it and incorporate it into the ideas you’re coming up with? It’s a good vetting characteristic: Is what I’m about to talk about worth talking about? Is it going to be significant for my audience?

And there’s two questions you can ask yourself in order to make sure that this applies. The first is: How many people is this information going to impact? Or, how many people were impacted by this event or this information? So thinking about the scope of the impact here and then based on the information, how many people will want to hear about this or need to hear about this story?

How is this going to impact your target audience? Are they all going to be really interested? Is this is going to be valuable to all of them? Is it something they need to know. So think about significance in terms of how many people it affects and just how much value you’re bringing to the table here. How much of a question are you answering by providing this information? Is there more you can do? Is there a better way to approach it?

Taking this perspective will really help you refine your process for creating the content and make sure you’re targeting the right audience with the right information.

The fourth newsworthy characteristic I want to talk about is novelty or originality. This can cover a lot of different things. Basically, when you read news, I think a lot of news sites still have sections that are like, weird news or bizarre news. And the reason that does so well is because people are fascinated by what is strange.

And we know this from pop culture and we know this from television and from movies and even from music that the “new” is really appealing. We’re able to back this up based on research Fractl did a couple years ago about viral emotions. What emotions are associated with virality, content that’s really popular? And what we found was that surprise was a highly effective emotion to incorporate into content if you want to achieve virality. It was one of the top emotions that we found the most common emotions that we found when we asked survey takers to look at a bunch of viral images, I believe it was the top 50 viral images and identify which emotions were there. So surprise is huge if you’re able to incorporate that. Which just backs up the whole idea that originality is super interesting, the weird is super interesting.

So if you’re trying to think okay, how can I talk about something that’s really strange and it still have something to do with my brand and provide value to my audience, try looking at different research sources instead of always going to the same places for your information. Try looking at unusual places. Unusual places will lead to unusual information.

By that I mean, maybe you’ve never looked at it like a subreddit related to your industry and maybe people are talking about topics there that you’ve never even considered and most people haven’t even considered. You know, look at different articles about your industry and look at the comments sections or look at other community forms. Basically, you want to look at the conversation, what individuals have to bring to the table. A lot of the times individual perspectives open up a world of more specific and more bizarre possibilities.

The next characteristic is prominence or fame and you’ll see that some of these characteristics tend to overlap a bit. But they’re still unique in the approach you take with them. Prominence and fame, sure, that can mean trending topics like we’ve already discussed. Or it can mean thinking outside the box. What is popular that maybe isn’t directly related to your industry or your brand or your topic but can be if you take an interesting new approach to it? Nadia Kodjoe, who was on the show a couple weeks ago, talked about how some of their best-performing infographics at Venngage were ones in which they use graphic design to illustrate stories about like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, which are two highly popular cultural sensations.

So by taking things like that and leveraging it to show what design can do, they were able to combine design and popular book and television and movie franchises to appeal to an even broader audience. This is especially effective if you’re looking to reach a wide audience that maybe isn’t already interested in design and reading design blogs, but can use a design tool like Venngage is. So think about who you’re trying to reach and if you are trying to expand out of your vertical a little bit, definitely think about, okay, what is popular that I can incorporate into this topic or into this content?

And the last thing I want to talk about is data journalism. This is more of an approach than a characteristic but the characteristic that comes out of data journalism is trends, which exist in large amounts of data, but take a lot of time to collect and analyze and distill in a way that everyone’s going to understand.

What’s important to remember is data journalism doesn’t just mean compiling a bunch of information and then just sending it out. It’s about finding the story in your data. You need to have a team that’s willing to take the time investment and dig into the information they have to see what exactly the information is telling us.

This is extremely interesting to people because individual people don’t have the time to sit around and look up these datasets that exist or collect new data and figure out what it all means. They’re relying on you to do that, which is already a huge value proposition for you to take that time and that budget and those resources and do this for people. They really appreciate it. The one word of caution I want to give you is don’t have a story already in mind or a thesis in mind and then try to make the data work for you.

Because readers will see through this. It’s deceitful. It’s not the way to go. Rather think about data sets that make sense to collect for your industry and then see what they reveal. This is hugely beneficial to your audience and something should absolutely explore if you haven’t already.

These are just some of the journalistic newsworthy characteristics, but I think that this is a great start if you’re trying to come up with new content ideas, or if you’re trying to examine maybe why content hasn’t done well in the past or how you can make content that’s more engaging in the future. As many of these as you’re able to include, the better. Make it as newsworthy as possible as valuable as possible and you’ll start to see the results you’re looking for.

Thanks again for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, click subscribe, don’t leave me with the realization that I’m talking to no one and please rate and review on iTunes so I can keep making this podcast better and your lives easier. Take care.

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