Here’s what a good online news post should look like

Here’s what a good online news post should look like

This example includes all the elements you need to make a successful online news post. Pay close attention to the headline, summary graph and photo placement.

Photo by Hitarth Jadhav. Licensed under Creative Commons License (CC0).

As I mentioned during the class lecture, the format of our online posts will be a little different than traditional newspaper copy. Hopefully, by following the guide below, we’ll be able to make readable online content, which can be easily found by search engines and users.

First, we’ll start with the headline. When writing headlines for the web, we want to make them clear and direct. We want the user to have a near complete understanding about what the story is about after reading the headline. In order to provide as much clarity as possible, it’s OK to go with longer headlines than you’d see in a newspaper. For example, here are some headlines from the popular online outlet, Vox:

As you can see, all of these headlines are longer than the 4 to 6 words you’d see in a newspaper headline. You should also notice that each of the headlines clearly say exactly what the story is about.

Below the headline, we want to include a summary graph. Your summary paragraph can be up to 20 words and should expand on the headline by providing the specifics. Here’s an example of a summary graph from a recent BuzzFeed News post:

Following the lead of sites like BuzzFeed and Vox, we want to place a photo between the summary graph and the beginning of our body copy. You should pick a compelling photo that is directly connect to the lead of the story.

Pragmatically, you should pick a horizontal photo, instead of a vertical one. If you pick a vertical, your user will have to do a lot of scrolling to get past the initial photo. [Reminder: you must have rights to any photos you use.]

After you insert your photo and caption, you can move down to your body copy.

At this point your post should look something like this:

For a short post, you can probably just insert your body copy below the photo and publish. For longer pieces, you might want to consider breaking up the text. You can do this in any number of ways. Here are some ideas:

  • Bullet points – instead of using huge blocks of text, you might be able to use bullet points to break-up the text into digestible bites
  • Subheads – you can also use subheads to break up long sections of text
  • Photos (or other visuals) – if your post is running past 6 to 8 paragraphs, you might want to add an additional photo, graphic or video into the text
  • Source documents – you can also break up long text stories by embedding source documents, such as PDFs or even social media postings

Regardless, the most important thing is to remember is that you want to make your content readable and approachable to the end user regardless of the device they are using.