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This month we have expert advice from Simon Whaley on how to get six articles from just one idea and Ten Top Tips will help you find the ideas used for the six articles. There are loads of Student Successes to give you an incentive to keep trying and Useful Websites is all about citizen journalism.

One Idea – Six Articles

By Simon Whaley

The successful article writer is one who recycles their research many times over. This means understanding your readership and knowing which pieces of information different readers will be interested in. When you’ve discovered lots of great information, the temptation to include as much of it as you can in your articles, can be overwhelming. However, sometimes what you leave out is just as important as the information you decide to include.

To explore this process further, I ran a workshop where I split 36 writers into six groups. Each group was given a different magazine for which they had to produce the outline of an article. They had to identify the specific angle they were taking with this particular subject matter, which they thought would be of interest to their potential readership. Importantly, they were all given exactly the same information about one specific topic: The Royal Yacht Britannia. The yacht was used for royal overseas trips and private holidays by the British Royal Family, and is now open to the public as a visitor attraction, near Edinburgh. (For more information visit www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk)

Each group was allocated one of the following magazines:

  • a royal magazine (such as Majesty)
  • an American magazine targeting readers keen on travelling to the UK (e.g. British Heritage)
  • a period interior homes magazine (like Period Living)
  • a magazine aimed at parents of young children (such as Junior)
  • a publication targeting clients who put on sophisticated entertaining events (such as JustLuxe)
  • a boating publication (like Yachting World)

 

As you can see, this is a diverse range of magazines! However, by focusing on specific areas of Britannia’s history, layout and opportunities, each group produced an article idea they felt would appeal to the distinct readership of each publication. Could it be done? Here’s what they came up with:

The Royal Magazine

This might seem the obvious market, but it’s still important to be selective about the information the writer gives the reader. This group concentrated on the information relating to the yacht’s royal connections. Whilst the yacht was used for private royal family holidays, it was also used to entertain other royal families, and was the hotel of choice for four royal honeymoons. Some of the furniture and ornaments on board were gifts from other royal families around the world, and because Britannia was built soon after the Second World War, it contains many items first used on previous royal yachts. You might think that this group had the easiest magazine to work with, but many said it was difficult to decide what information to leave out. Their piece though focused on royal personalities.

The American Magazine

Many of this magazine’s readers like the British royal family, so the Royal Yacht Britannia is a good topic for an article, especially because readers can take a tour around the yacht when visiting the UK. At first, this group thought about giving the American readership a general guided tour around the yacht, but as they went through the information and research, they realised there were many American connections to the yacht. So instead, they approached their article by focusing on these American connections. They discussed the state dining and drawing rooms, where several American Presidents have been entertained, and they mentioned the engine rooms, which are so spotlessly clean General Schwarzkopf thought it was a museum piece! They also identified a couple of trips Britannia made to America, such as to Chicago, when Eisenhower was entertained on board. Can you see how this is a very different article to the one above?

The Period Interior Magazine

At first, this group thought I was making their life intolerable! Why would a period interior design magazine be interested in a boat? But as they filtered through the research they discovered the angle they needed. The interior design of Britannia was led by one of the UK’s popular interior designers of the 1950s, whilst also incorporating many of the Queen (and her husband’s) personal design tastes into the decoration. A lot of thought was given to how each room should be decorated, as the Queen specifically wanted Britannia to have the feel of a country house at sea. What better angle for a period interior magazine, than an article about a traditionally English country house? Albeit, one that floated!

The Parents of Young Children magazine

This group quickly identified that Britannia is a great family day out, with lots of things to see and do. As they went through the information they felt that there were two elements to this article. They began by giving information about the royal children when they were on board. Royal children were expected to do chores. Then the group focussed on the activities children can do whilst visiting the yacht, which includes a special audio tour for them to follow. Although this magazine is written for parents, this group felt it was right to mention things that parents could tell their children about, to get them excited about a trip to Britannia, whilst also conveying a lot of practical information parents wish to know about at such venues (toilets, refreshments and ease of car parking).

The Sophisticated Entertaining Magazine

Again, this group panicked, but as they went through the information, they finally found the angle they needed. Today, Britannia can be hired for private events, meaning guests can be entertained in the same state dining room where many of the world’s most famous leaders have dined. This group decided to focus on the different services and facilities that are available to anyone wanting to hire Britannia for a private event, whilst also weaving in some of the interesting historical facts relating to those rooms that can be hired.

The Boating Magazine

Britannia is two ships in one: it was a royal residence, but it was also a working Royal Navy ship. Whilst most of the other groups angled their pieces around the royal residence, this group looked at the operational aspects of the yacht, and its technical characteristics. This group realised that these readers would be interested in the engines used on Britannia, so they gave information regarding the yacht’s displacement in the water, rudder torque and engine speeds. They identified the construction methods used to build the yacht and passed on information about the yacht’s maintenance schedule – information that other boat owners would be interested in.

As you can see, each of these groups identified six completely different article angles, from this one subject idea. And I know there are many other angles ... because I’ve sold some of them!

So the next time you undertake a lot of research on one particular topic, sit down and think about how you can categorise and parcel it up for different readerships. Go to a large newsagents and buy six different magazines. Ask yourself: which snippets of your research information would each readership find interesting? When it comes to selecting the information, you’ll then see that what you leave out of your article is just as important as what you decide to put in. And it’s this selection process that enables you to create so many different articles.

Once you learn how to angle specific information to a different readership, suddenly every magazine becomes a potential market. Now there’s a challenge!

Simon is a tutor for the Writers Bureau and a freelance writer and author. Hundreds of his articles have appeared in print in the UK and USA, and his short stories have been published in the UK, Australia and Ireland. He is the author of ten books, including The Positively Productive Writer, which was published in January 2012.