It’s been a longstanding rule of journalism that stories should be written in the inverted pyramid style. Begin with broad statements of the most important information, then go into more and more details as the article progresses. The reason for this is simple: a lot of people don’t have time to read the whole article. So if they only read the first paragraph or two of the story, they should still come away with all the necessary information.
In the Internet world, attention spans are even shorter, and time even more fleeting. Skipping over the content someone has posted is so prevalent that it even has its own acronym (tl;dr or “Too long; didn’t read”). So it stands to reason that the inverted pyramid should be the staple format of blog posts too, right? A recent blog post at HubSpot says no.
Studies have shown that people actually read more of a specific piece of content when it’s posted online than they do when it’s, say, in a newspaper. What’s more, even if they don’t read the entire article or post, they tend to skim, gleaning basic information points throughout the article.
Ergo, the inverted pyramid format may, in fact, discourage audiences from reading more of a particular blog post. A post that provides readers with all the information they need in the first paragraph or two gives them no reason to skim the post any further. They’ve gleaned the highlights already, so they stop reading before they get to the MOST important part: the landing page.
So what other options are there for formatting a blog post? There are several. It could be a regular pyramid. One piece of information builds on the next, coming to an ultimate point, e.g., a step-by-step progression for how to do something. There’s also the list format, which is very popular for online outlets, since it lends itself to skimmers. A person can click on a list of “8 Tips For Success,” then go through and look over what each step is with a cursory glance. If one step in particular looks useful or intriguing, it can be read in-depth. If another doesn’t, it can be summarily skipped.
Similar to lists is a problem/solution format, which presents readers with specific challenges or obstacles, then tells them how to overcome them. “Dos and Don’ts” posts can also fit into this category, which allow skimming as well.
But are inverted pyramid posts really that bad? Have they outlived their usefulness? Not necessarily. It’s a format, like any other. A tool. What matters is how it’s used. The problem with the format is that with more information up front, people skip the later content and end up missing landing pages, special offers and other important links that come later. The solution? Put those things up front too. Link to your landing pages in the first couple of paragraphs, where people can easily see them and are more likely to click them. After all, as mentioned earlier, the links are, in fact, the most important information in your post. So if you want to write in inverted pyramid style, it stands to reason that they should go right at the beginning, so everyone can see them.
In the end, the format you use depends on what you have to say and your own personal style. As long as you’re driving traffic and bringing in leads, there is no wrong way of doing things.