The traditional news structure fails readers
If I told you there was a communication tool that reduces readership, diminishes understanding and causes engagement to take a nosedive, would you use it?
Friends, there is such a tool, and I am afraid you are using it every day. It’s called the inverted pyramid. And, according to “Ways With Words,” a classic study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, it does “not work well with readers.”
The problem with the pyramid
“Ways With Words” researchers studied four story structures and found that traditional, inverted-pyramid stories:
- “Do not work well with readers,” and “did not justify their predominance in today’s newspapers.”
- Scored low in readership and understanding.
- Made a mediocre showing in “involvement,” or whether the story made readers care about the news. (In our business, we call this “engagement.”)
- Were the least effective at getting the reader to the jump of all story forms studied.
Researchers identified two problems with the inverted pyramid:
- “The story gets more boring as the reader reads down.”
- “Journalists put background and context in the second half of the pyramid, so the reader who does not know that background cannot understand the top of the story. As a result, only journalists and sources can fully understand inverted-pyramid stories.”
Why are we still using this thing?
Back away from the pyramid.
Instead of sticking with a story form that’s been proven in the lab not to work, you’d think writers would experiment with other story structures. But, the researchers lamented: