For many bloggers, coming up with ideas for great posts is one of the biggest challenges. The good news is that if you have an idea for one post that will appeal to your readership, odds are, you have at least one more. How so? By covering a story from a different angle.
Every time you write a post, you determine the angle you’ll take—even if you’re not consciously doing so. Just as taking a photograph from a different angle can yield very different results (imagine a photo taken from the base of a large tree, a photo taken from the top of the same tree, and a close-up shot of an individual leaf), covering a story from a different angle can give your readers a brand-new experience, even if you’ve covered a topic before.
As always, Regator has calculated the ten most-blogged-about stories of the last month, and we’ll be using posts about those popular stories to demonstrate the power of choosing the right angle. (The blogosphere trends for the month of January 2011, in order, were: Egypt, State of the Union, Golden Globes, Verizon iPhone, Gabrielle Giffords, Super Bowl, Martin Luther King Jr, Sundance Film Festival, Flooding, and Consumer Electronics Show.) Here are some tips on finding the right angle for your next post, along with examples showing how a few bloggers used unexpected angles to put a new spin on these oft-covered topics… and, more importantly, how you can use similar ways of thinking to turn a trickle of post ideas into a flood.
1. Narrow down a broad story by choosing one element
The top story for the month is, of course, Egypt. While it is valuable for us to hear the general details, it’s not valuable for every blogger to provide the same information. To find an angle that would provide unique content to its readers, Threat Level first narrowed the story down to one aspect: the shutting down of Egypt’s Internet access. Still, plenty of bloggers were writing about that, so they went even further by focusing on just one aspect of the shutdown: how it was actually achieved by those in power.
Because of this very specific angle, the resulting post, Egypt Shut Down Its Series of Tubes With a Series of Phone Calls, is interesting and stands out amidst the crowd. A story doesn’t need to be as massive as the Egyptian revolution for this tactic to work. Try taking the subject of your next post and narrowing it down. Then, if you can, take that and narrow it down again.
2. Find the right angle for your niche
A story like President Obama’s State of the Union address may seem like a political story—and it is—but it’s not limited political bloggers. Smart Politics is a political blog but the angle it chose to cover this story would work just as well for a linguistics or psychology blog. The post, Obama’s SOTU: Uniting the Country…through Pronouns?, is a fascinating examination of the President’s use of pronouns as a unifying device.
The next time you think, “That’s a really interesting story but it doesn’t fit into my blog,” ask yourself if there’s any element to the story or angle you could take that might make it a great fit for readers in your niche. You might be surprised.
3. Look for trends
Analyzing a story for patterns or trends is another way to find an angle. There was no doubt that celebrity fashion blog, Go Fug Yourself, was going to cover the Golden Globes from a fashion perspective, but by finding a red-carpet trend, its post, Golden Globes Trend Carpet: Best/Worst Green, not only gave readers the gossip on the awards ceremony but also advised its fashion-conscious readership of an upcoming trend.
See if you can find a legitimate pattern or trend in a story you’re covering. Identifying trends before the rest of the blogosphere will help your blog become the place to go for those who want to be in-the-know.
4. Try a personal or emotional angle
It’s no accident that every news organization features “human interest” along with its hard news. Stories involving emotions and struggles of everyday people are almost universally appealing. When writing about the launch of the Verizon iPhone, The Next Web’s Verizon Throws Best Customers Under the Bus: Charges Them 3X for iPhone post focuses on the anger of a long-time Verizon customer. Try finding an emotional or personal angle in a post you’re working on.
5. Focus on an interesting but seldom-covered aspect of the story
Every story is made up of thousands of details. Slate: Press Box’s Jared Loughner is ready for his photo op post analyzed a rarely talked about aspect of the man accused of shooting Representative Gabrielle Giffords and several others: his mugshot and, more specifically, his baldness and the cultural implications of a shaved head. The uniqueness of this angle made the post a captivating read.
Make a list of at least ten different aspects of a story that you’re covering, then try to choose an unusual angle to create a distinct post that your readers won’t find elsewhere.
6. Turn one story into three (or more) posts
There are countless ways to tell every story. The Business Insider’s How To Bet On The Super Bowl – A Click-By-Click Guide chose to focus on betting. Other blogs talked about uniform choice, psychological preparation of the players, Super Bowl party snacks, and many, many other facets of the game.
If a story is relevant to your readership, you need not limit yourself to just one post about it. If you can find several angles that each provide something unique and interesting, you can get several quality posts out of just one story.
7. Take an unexpected approach
In general, the more unexpected your angle, the more likely it is to be shared. I saw i09’s Martin Luther King In Science Fiction passed around Facebook and Twitter more than any other individual post about Martin Luther King Jr Day. Now that may be because I’m friends with too many nerds, but I think it’s actually because the angle was so unexpected. I’m not a big science fiction fan, but even I clicked on the link to see what the connection between King and sci fi was.
I think it’s important to surprise your readers now and then to keep them engaged. The unexpected makes an impression.
8. Research the historical angle or backstory of an event
The Daily Beast looked back at the Sundance Film Festival and found that many of this year’s Oscar nominees had started at the festival. The combination of finding a trend and researching historical data yielded the post Filmmakers Who Started At Sundance.
There are myriad stories hiding in history. A bit of research might reveal an angle you never considered.
9. Remember that there are always more stories than you think
When parts of Queensland, Australia, were affected by severe flooding, Fran Jurga’s Hoof Blog combined several of the techniques we’ve talked about above in the post University of Queensland’s Equine Hospital Keeps Its Head Up Above the Flood. This intriguing post took a broad story and found a way to apply it to the blog’s niche; it struck emotional chord with details of horses who’d worn their hooves down by swimming up to 30 hours to stay alive; it narrowed the story down first to horses affected by the flood, then to horses being cared for by a single veterinary hospital; and it took an unexpected and seldom-taken approach to flood coverage.
10. Write a story from someone else’s perspective
This is one of the easiest ways to find an alternative angle, but it’s also one of the most effective. While most blogs were covering the Consumer Electronics Show from the perspective of attendees or companies presenting new products, Gadget Lab chose to post It Takes a Mountain of Shipping Crates to Make a Trade Show from the perspective of the organizers, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the massive conference.
Consider covering a story from another party’s perspective to provide a whole new story.
Do you consider different angles when writing posts? Please share your thoughts in the comments!