Treat Your Blog Like a Newspaper

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Ever wonder why some blogs and websites grab your attention more than others? What is it that makes a website pass that 3-second-rule that I often talk about? If you have your choice of getting the same information from two different blogs, which one do you usually go back to? It may be that you have made a social connection with that person but there has to be an underlying reason why you stopped and paid attention to their website in the first place.

What are the similarities between publishing articles in print and online you may ask. Well . . . lots. The medium is different but the intent is the same. We want to capture our reader’s attention and keep it long enough to get them to do something. Whether our intention is to educate, sell a product or establish our self as the go-to place for information or help, if our website visitors don’t find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, they’re hitting that dreaded back button and off to another site.

Newspaper Layout

The first thing you see when you walk by a newsstand is the front page of the paper. The name of the newspaper is in large print at the very top. There are large headlines to grab your attention and pictures to tell a story. The top stories of the day are always prominently displayed above-the-fold (seen without scrolling) to grab our attention.

Newspaper Design

Good newspapers have well-balanced layouts. There’s plenty of white space. They use one or two easy to read fonts and they clearly define their articles. They also use artwork and pictures to tell the story.

Headlines

Newspapers use headlines to attract attention and break up the white space. Each headline and article features one story. The headlines are always bolder and a larger font (similar to WordPress “headings”).

Thinking of our websites as newspapers may help to remind us that we’re not writing our first great novel. Newspapers are read and thrown away. Sometimes, an article may be clipped (sort of like bookmarking online) or shared (tweeted, liked, forwarded and amplified) but bottom line is we read them and move on. So, how do we make sure that it’s our blog that stands out and is read? Thoughts? Ideas? Over to you.

 

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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42 Comments

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  1. Hi Cheryl,
    Thanks for coming over here from the LinkedIn Bloggers Helping Bloggers group. I appreciate it. I think one of the best tips here for new bloggers is to make certain that you have quality content viewable without scrolling. Search engines “look” for keywords especially in that first paragraph and in text that is tagged as headings. Sometimes, I see sites with header graphics that take up an awful lot of content space. That can result in losing a lot of valuable space that can be used for content.

  2. The way you have written about this makes a lot of sense. It grabbed my attention because the headline was actually in contrast to something I wrote in one of my articles. It was in contrast because I was discussing a different subject – I was talking about how your site should be more like a library than a newspaper, because you should be reviving your old posts and keeping you good, relevant content alive rather than relying on your latest post all the time.

    However, the parallels that you have drawn make total sense and are very applicable also.

  3. Actually, blog looks like a newspaper. Both newspapers and blogs have their own readers. The difference is that blog is an online newspaper. The main advantage of a blog over newspaper is that reading interesting blog posts people can obtain valuable information for free. So, it is more convenient for people to subscribe RSS feeds of popular blogs and stay up-to-date with new blog posts rather than to purshase a newspaper.

    1. Terje, I rarely buy newspapers today and tend to read all my news online. It’s not that I don’t want to buy the paper. I actually do still enjoy reading a newspaper relaxing on a deck chair with a cup of coffee but I find the news online to be so much more current. Having said that, I still would prefer clipping coupons from the Sunday inserts to visiting coupon sites and printing them. Sometimes, I just need to take a break from being online. 🙂

    1. I try to think of ways to make people think of their website in simple ways. Sometimes, I read blogs and you don’t see the real attention grabbing text until you’ve scrolled. Today, when I was looking at my site, I was thinking why did I make my banner graphic so tall? That is pushing my content even lower. When I do find/make the time to tweak my own site, that’s one of the changes I’ve made a mental note of.

  4. Sherryl

    I did enjoy this informative post.

    I, being a visual artist, tend to keep my site simplified. I do include the “headline” of course.

    I think my visuals create the impact you are speaking of here….but in a more simplified way.

    What do you think? 🙂

    1. I enjoy your blog very much Catherine. It’s true (at least from the posts that I have read) that you don’t add a lot of content in the way of text which must be a challenge as far as having the search engines index your site. Do you make sure that you enter keywords in the alt-tags, titles and description fields when you upload your photos?

  5. Hello there Sherryl! Personally, I like the newspaper layout (although I frequently read magazine). Especially the way the headlines are presented – bold and in large characters. It helps my memory a lot particularly to those things/events that must be remembered or must be given importance. Aside from that, I always look for newspaper because it shows facts. That’s what I’m after at – current events. Though a blog is not required to talk about current events, it’s gonna affect people if it talks about facts.

  6. Hi Sherryl,
    As many of your astute readers already pointed out – a catchy headline and attractive visuals are a big draw. A lot of blog templates make it easy to direct the reader’s eye to the story of the day. Websites, on the other hand, have to be designed artistically so the elements within it don’t end up competing with one another.

    1. That is so true Catherine. Even with a good template though, if someone tries hard enough, they can really make their site difficult to read. What comes to mind is when people change the color of the text and the background color behind their text.

      Black text on a white background is the most popular choice for a reason, making that one more thing blogs have in common with newspapers. 🙂

  7. As interested as I am in Emotional Intelligence, I think that both titles and headers are more effective if they hook the readers emotion. It can be any kind of emotion. If we notice some of the most effective TV commercials, they have “moved” us with anything from empathy to humor. Well… it’s easier said than done!

    1. “Emotional Intelligence” – I’ve never thought of it in that way before Keyuri but you’re absolutely right. We do need to hook our readers’ emotions. One of the first things that I learned about designing websites is that your entire site needs to be tuned in to the “WIFM” station -(What’s in it for me?).

      I got a kick out of your “I Dare You NOT to Laugh!” and posted a link to one of my favorite TV commercials. It’s a local business so lots of your readers may have never seen it before.

  8. I’ve gained great insight from this post, thanks so much! Your headline syncs with this quote by Thomas J. Peters:

    “The best leaders…almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols.”

  9. From a design point of few making a blog attractive and easy to absorb when first visiting, is one tip for all bloggers. Keep it simple and clean. But I think the thing that keeps them coming back is not the content but the author of it. I think people want to do business with people they like and the same holds true for bloggers. They want to read the thoughts of people they like. In my opinion.

  10. These are great ideas. I am trying to get my headings to be a larger front than the others like on Zac’s blog. But cannot figure out how in WordPress.

    1. Ivin, Do you have an editor like the tinymce-advanced plug-in installed? With a plug-in like that, you should be able to highlight your text and then select a “heading” tag. This does more than just change your fonts to bold or a larger size, it actually inserts header tags before the text and after the text. Heading tags let the search engines know that this text is more important than the body of your post which is why it’s a good idea to use keywords in your headlines.

      Of course, you can also insert heading tags manually by switching your view from “visual” to “HTML”. You can try entering the HTML code and then check out your post in preview mode. I honestly find a theme with a built-in editor or a plug-in to work best but plug-ins can clash with each other. I always backup my site before I install or upgrade plug-ins. I keep track of the plug-ins I install too. Good luck!

  11. Hi Sherryl

    Great analogy. I like to think good writing, interesting headlines and some great graphics will lend themselves to people visiting, staying to enjoy the post and then come back for the next edition 😉

    Patricia Perth Australia

  12. Good learning from Magazine style. The first thing that come to my mind when you mention magazine is the headline. The headline usually very interesting so can capture readers fast.

  13. As a former business reporter, I learned that the headline and your first sentence need to be grabbers. Over the years, though, in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other prestigious news outlets even the most serious news stories begin not so much with who, what, where, when and why — but more with the Wow! – they are written much more in a feature format then a news format. This probably draws in more readers then a dull straight recitation of the facts. The informality of social media may be influencing even the Grey Lady to become a little more hip!

    1. I didn’t know that you were a reporter at one time Jeannette. I find it so interesting to hear the background of the bloggers that I follow. It is interesting to watch how newspapers have had to react to recent changes. As more people seek their news online, it makes sense that they have to transform themselves. Personally, I no longer subscribe to my local newspaper and I read their online version for free. I have told them that if they had better coupons in their Sunday paper I would subscribe again but their inserts are really lame. I would hate to see them go out of business but on the other hand, their paper brings me no added value. It saddens me but they have to transform themselves to survive.

  14. Good points Sherryl and I think you do need to consider content and design together as one without the other is only half the story. The other thing newspapers do is they make sure you do not need a PHD to read the articles. They keep it simple and each section uses language that the reader is familiar with and can understand.

    1. Content is still king Susan. I agree with you there. No matter how pretty we make our websites look, if they don’t satisfy some need of our readers, they’re outta here.

      Excellent point about not needing a PHD to read our articles. Another thing to keep in mind is not to bore our readers. That will get me outta there quickly too. 🙂

  15. Thanks for these great ideas and thoughts. I’m about to set up a new blog on my website, and any ideas and good advice that I can gleen will be most helpful. One thing that I do notice with your writing Sherryl is that you ask lots of leading questions. One it makes me think about what you’re saying and secondly I feel compeled to reply! So as well as making your layout easy to follow by good bold headings, I also find that your heading itself seems to draw people in. Do you work these headings around a series of good keywords, or do you layout what you want to say and then find good keywords to meet these? I know that this is a bit off topic, but I’m interested to know.

    1. Diane, I think of my blog as a community and I encourage everyone to comment. That is why I ask leading questions. 🙂 I strongly believe that we can all learn from each other. I read every comment that’s left on my blog and I learn a lot from them.

      I appreciate that you think my headings are effective. (I often don’t like them but I may be like Julie and a little over critical of myself.) I do not work my headings out ahead of time. I usually start with a thought and then write a heading down really quick to get me on track with my writing. (It’s rarely the heading that I end up using.)

      As for keywords, I confess that I have written entire posts and then had to go back and try to figure what my tags are and what the keywords should be. Sometimes, I have to tweak my article a little to incorporate some keywords. I concentrate more on the story telling and hope people will find my posts through my networking and word of mouth. I don’t write for SEO although a case can be built that I probably should.

      1. Thank you Sherryl for your constructive reply. This is most helpful and I will keep this in mind as I roll out my own blog.

  16. Thanks for this – folks don’t normally put too much time, at least in the beginning, with layout decisions. Later on when they might want to make changes, it can be overwhelming with all the options on all the other “good blogs” they’re reading. Maybe this is something newbie bloggers need to grab onto early, build better habits from the beginning.

      1. When I first started blogging, I didn’t use a lot of headers and my articles were quite a bit longer than they are now. I knew enough to model my articles after a web page – plenty of white space and pictures but I wasn’t writing short enough posts. These are all tips that newbie bloggers need to learn. I agree that these decision become habits.

  17. Sherryl with a background in journalism I naturally agree with you. Treat your blog as a newspaper is exactly the way it works. That’s why I use so many big photographs with captions to attract attention.

    But the main thing is to write as a journalist. Layout and photographs isn’t enough. For intstance the reason I made a story out of the spammer on Linkedin selling blood diamonds is just that. The journalist in me created a story after seeing the same comment about ten times. Blood diamonds on Linkedin…..because we all have to join forces to make sure such people fail.

    1. Writing as a journalist is an excellent point Catarina. I believe the popularity of your blog is a combination of good journalism plus the fact that you’re not afraid to write about current topics that make us think. I left a comment for you that I don’t believe I would ever have looked at the LinkedIn spam and thought – there’s a great topic for an article. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog.

  18. Hi Sherry,

    Great advice. That 3-second rule is a tough one to follow but so important. The analogy between our websites/blogs and a newspaper is very appropriate – what can we do to make our websites more like a newspaper? Our titles/headlines are the best way to grab our reader’s attention. Some are better at writing captivating/compelling headlines than others – I am on the wrong side of that equation 🙂 Your headlines are compelling in that they are clear and concise and educational. Susan’s are always very clever. I need to work on mine.