The Inverted Pyramid - Bloggers Learning From Journalism

The Inverted Pyramid – Learning From Journalism

The story follows the lede (the first paragraph). The Inverted Pyramid puts a priority on the most important content and serves that information first. Bloggers can benefit from applying the Inverted Pyramid to their content creation.

In just 35 words, you already know exactly what this article is about. See how that works?

Many bloggers, including myself, may be waiting too long to give up the good stuff. Are you guilty of this as well? Let’s look at how we write, how journalists write, and apply that to how our blog visitors read.

The Inverted Pyramid

The ‘Inverted Pyramid’ Model

The Inverted Pyramid is a simple content structure we’ve seen in journalism since we were old enough to realize there was actually a world beyond our Super Friends cartoons and Star Trek re-runs.

The Inverted Pyramid shows the reader exactly what they’re getting into, inspires interest for those looking to read further, and decreases disappointed readership because they misunderstood our title.

By covering the most important content up front, we cater to our busiest readers (almost everyone) while allowing them to decide for themselves just how much time they want to devote to that particular piece.

The major points of the article are given right away. The top of the upside down pyramid (the beginning of our article/blog post) covers the “Five W’s” of journalism: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

Then we move deeper into the story and follow up with supporting content when needed. Here we provide secondary names, locations, dates, times, supporting facts, and attribution.

Then we move into deeper storytelling and even more supporting content when needed.

The part of the Inverted Pyramid that I’m most concerned with is the top – the main meat of the article. This allows the reader to decide how much content they wish to consume yet can walk away more informed even after consuming a single paragraph.

Location, Location, Location…

Does this look familiar?
✔ Start with an enticing title
✔ Write a teaser sentence
✔ Tell a related story
✔ Explain the broad topic in detail
✔ Go back to the story or other related stories
✔ Try to blend it all into a lesson plan
Finally, after 90% of your readers have bounced, give up the genius part? Really?

My Ah-ha Moment

I’m a podcast listening maniac and I recently added EVERY episode of the new Rainmaker Network to my listening schedule. One of my favorite Rainmaker shows is Rough Draft by Demian Farnworth.

Listen to the short 6-minute episode below and see if it resonates with you as much as it did with me.

Did you hear it? Did you catch the genius in its simplicity? Did you understand the ‘Inverted Pyramid‘ model?

The Short And Long Of It

Don’t Confuse the inverted pyramid with shorter posts.  Post or article length really has little to do with it. We’re talking structure, priority, and outline here. It works on any content length. But, since you brought it up…

Off Topic Skippable/ Off Topic – I’m Guilty As Charged

Say what you need to say, then leave. Less is actually more, and the length of your speech or your document has nothing at all to do with your impact or your status. ~Seth Godin

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been following this long format for years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start telling you long form content should be avoided. I have always said, “Your posts should be as long as it takes and not a single word longer“. Other bloggers, many much more successful than I, such as Michael Hyatt, suggest shorter content. I believe there are too many factors at play for there to be a one-answer solution.

The Power Of The Pyramid

Improved copy before and afterKeeping our content well structured, organized, and very skimmable is imperative but pushing the meat of the story above the fold just might make a huge difference for many bloggers.
~ Brian D. Hawkins

I find the idea of giving the best content upfront so powerful I actually went in and edited my last blog post here on Hot Blog Tips. I took what I thought was the “answer” readers would be looking for and moved it to the top of the blog post.

I probably wont worry above re-writing other previous posts but I will keep the Inverted Pyramid model in mind when I update authority pages and optimize other high value content.

Writing Blog Content

The problem, for many of us bloggers, isn’t in content length, it’s in structure. The simple structure I outlined above was based on what I believed to be good storytelling skills. The truth hurts but I am, at best, a good story teller and that is undoubtedly very generous.

Is it to entertain with a short story? Possibly but I bet you can go deeper that that. What’s the MAIN purpose of the specific post you’re working on right now?

Is it to teach something? Great, would more people learn from your lesson if they actually found what they were looking for without skimming over a thousand words of supporting content? I was going to say ‘fluff‘ but we are better than that.

Is it to promote a product? Again, that’s great. How many product sales pages have you purchased from that forced you to search paragraph after paragraph before you even knew what the product was? None, I bet.

Is it to capture an email address in exchange for quality content? So why do so many of us bury the call to action and opt-in form/button beneath enough content to overwhelm J.A.R.V.I.S. on a simple Stark Tower security check.

Critics Gonna Criticize

Said “next time you blog, try to spit a flow”
You wanna criticize, dog? Try a little mo’ ~ Eminem (On Fire)

Purists often say the inverted pyramid is outdated at best and an artless form of content creation. I completely understand the resistance because it almost feels as if we’re turning blog post content into sales copy – at first glance. Seriously, we’re almost writing our conclusion first, right? That just feels unnatural.

Truthfully, copy is content and sales is a desired action. Blog posts can achieve that end, as well as any number of other desired goals – all while still providing value.

Moving the most important parts to the beginning of the article shouldn’t damage the content creativity – only open the article for a wider audience.

Wrapping Up

Using the Inverted Pyramid content structure doesn’t mean we have to abandon all of the writing skills. We’re simply moving the cream to the top.

We can still write for the same audience, produce scannable content, tell amazing stories, and offer amazing quality content that helps build credibility, authority, and influence.

Action Step

I wouldn’t recommend you stop what you are doing and completely change content structure and formatting based on a blog post and a theory. No, that would be totally irresponsible.

Try this, where it makes sense – put your most fundamental information at the top of a few posts and see how it plays out for you. Include a call to action immediately after and see if bounce rates decrease with better conversions. Don’t even worry about the bottom sections of the inverted pyramid for now, just continue with the same format you’re currently using and move the “solution/answer” to the top. That’s all I’m doing for now.

A Little Gift I Put Together For You

Download your two almost real Inverted Pyramid Examples
✔ Example #1
The first example is a fictional story of a cop gone wrong in the form of a news report. This example might make Batman angry with me. 😉
✔ Example #2
The second example is a very short blog post announcing the immediate success of Microsoft’s launch of the new Windows 10 operating system.
✔ A brief Description Of The Inverted Pyramid Method.
✔ The Inverted Pyramid Concept.

About Brian Hawkins

Blogging superhero by day and internet super villain by night. Blogger, future online millionaire and all around great guy. Subscribe to our
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