This guide, written in collaboration with user needs evangelist Dmitry Shishkin, is part of a series on writing news stories based on the news needs approach. These six different editorial treatments of a news event, focusing on other details of the story besides the cold, hard facts, can offer more value to the reader. This has been proven on many occasions in various settings. The ultimate goal of the user needs approach is to connect to the audience in a stronger, more meaningful way - creating more engagement and loyalty in the process and increasing the relevance of your brand.

New to the user needs?

In this part, we talk about the user need called 'Divert me', share useful formats and writing tips, and - critically - when to use this approach. Ready? Let's have a look!

The user need 'Divert me'

Reading or watching the news can be pretty taxing, especially when there's a lot of bad news such as wars or environmental disasters to report - and when isn’t there? People simply can't consume 'hard news' all the time. That's where the user need 'Divert me' comes in. Think of it like a pressure valve: it introduces something lighter and helps alleviate news fatigue. Something that'll bring a smile to your face, surprise or amaze you.

Originally, the ‘Divert me’ user need was called 'Amuse me'. But it's much more diverse than flat entertainment. It can be a lighter take on a harder topic, something funny that happened during a very serious event. But some news is fun, or exciting, or curious in and of itself. Readers will appreciate you sharing anything that breaks the flow of heavy, hard news.

sometimes, people need to be given something to distract their thoughts

Why should you write 'Divert me' pieces?

Quite simply: to break the negative flow of news. People cannot read about Syria or wildfires all the time; they need to be given something to distract their thoughts. It's all about breaking their day from a consumption of hard news into something lighter. If you link from the harder news to the lighter stories, readers will likely stay on your site for longer, reading more articles instead of rushing off after a round of bad-news consumption.

When to write a 'Divert me' story

If your frontpage is getting cluttered with serious, heavy or sad news, it's time to lighten things up. Also, if you find yourself covering the same event for days or weeks on end, it's nice to throw in something different or fun related to it. Choose your moments wisely though, and be tactful; not every subject lends itself to comedy and sometimes it's better to wait a while after a sensitive event.

ready, set, go

Getting started with a 'Divert me' story

Start by asking these questions:

  • Has anything funny or remarkable happened while this news event has been unfolding?
  • Are the people involved interesting characters? Do they have curious hobbies, habits or styles worth writing about?
  • Did people say or do strange things that could be made into some kind of compilation?

Useful formats for a 'Divert me' piece

Diverting stories can take many forms, as long as the contents are 'lighter'. Possible formats are:

  • Video
  • Picture gallery
  • Surprising short piece story
  • Listicle

A good 'Divert me' headline

Indicate in the headline that it's a different kind of story, to attract the right kind of readers. Make sure that people looking for the serious facts don't end up here. You could include words like 'funny', 'unusual', 'unexpected', but avoid sounding clickbaity.

Great examples of 'Divert me' pieces

Dmitry's Pro tip

"Videos and standalone images are great formats for ‘Divert me’ user need. If you are subscribed to a big photo or video library, skim through the assets of the day. Chances are you’ll find something remarkable, like this photo gallery chronicling people (and animals) letting off steam during a heat wave, for example. Publish it on its own on the site and on your social media channels - these things find their audiences fairly easily."