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?

We created a new User Need Model in March 2023. Check our page and download the whitepaper if you're interested! We did a webinar about the User Needs Model 2.0. Watch the recording!

In this part, we talk about the user need 'Educate me', sharing useful formats, writing tips and - critically - when to use this approach. Let’s crack on!

The user need 'Educate me'

‘Educate me’, as the name indicates, is all about publishing content people can learn from. Many traditional news stories are written based on an assumption about the readers' prior knowledge about the subject. In truth, readers may be intimidated about engaging with a particular subject, or they could read it but fail to understand it fully. ‘Educate me’ therefore meets the needs of an increasing number of readers who not only want to read about events, but understand them on a deeper level.

Stories written with this approach will help readers understand a topic, fuel their curiosity about it or break a complicated subject down into easy to understand pieces.

Check these user needs as well:

Give me perspective

Divert me

Inspire me

Connect me

Help me

Keep me engaged

Update me

there's opportunity to grow your audience here

Why should you write ‘Educate me’ pieces?

Our research has shown that long articles in the ‘Educate me’ category have the highest amount of ‘reading time’ - and people consuming these articles also tend to be the most loyal visitors. This indicates that there’s lots of opportunity to build your audience here, if you're willing to invest the time.

These stories, when done well, have the potential to become 'evergreen' pieces on your site: a valuable source of information for weeks, months or even years to come, building SEO authority over time and attracting more new visitors to your platform. However, if your brand is not yet established as a source for background or informational pieces, it may take time to build an audience for these articles.

When to write an ‘Educate me’ story

Pay attention to your audience: if you're trying to reach a younger demographic, ‘Educate me’ may be a valuable user need for you to explore. These readers are often more critical about the news they consume, wanting to understand it rather than just be told something. Informational pieces help to grab their attention.

When large news events occur (such as the trial against Desi Bouterse or law change on wearing masks in public places), or complex matters define the news agenda (like the US elections or the economic consequences of Brexit), it never hurts to explain to your readers what’s going on. Discuss the different stages, where do we stand, what will happen etc. All additional context you can provide will definitely be of help to your audience.

Also be sure to check the comments on your articles. If there is a sense of confusion or people asking for clarification, it may be time to create an ‘Educate me’ follow-up.

ready, set, go

Getting started with an ‘Educate me’ story

Start by asking these questions:

  • Is there any knowledge people need to be able to follow this story? Is there a set of rules that apply, a complicated religious or cultural aspect, or context that’s necessary to understand it?
  • What is the history of this event? Is there anything to be explained about its development?
  • Who are the key players? What are their backgrounds and motivations? What have they been saying about it?
  • Who and what are influenced by this news event and why?
  • Will there be an outcome or decision? When can we expect the next steps, or when will the final conclusion be made?
  • Has there ever been a similar case? Why is it the same, where does it differ? What was the outcome and will that affect this event?

Next, choose a perspective, do the research and start writing!

Useful formats for an 'Educate me' piece

The most typical format for an ‘educate me’ piece is a

  • Q&A article
  • Listicle
  • ‘How to’ video
  • Animation explaining things that are difficult to film
  • Timeline
  • Glossary or list of terms explained

A good ‘Educate me’ headline

Headlines are always critical, so wherever possible, you should indicate in your headlines what type of story it is and what 'need' the article hopes to fulfil. Make sure that the headline illustrates that this piece is different and informative, as that helps attract people looking for information via search engines. Include words that indicate the informative or educational nature of the article.

Great examples of 'Educate me' pieces

Dmitry's Pro tip

Try to utilise Google Trends or AnswerThePublic websites, they are a great source for relevant, timely and actionable data points that should be used to prepare pieces satisfying this user need. If you are regularly using special terms - medical, business or political - always remember that many in your audiences are not likely to know their meanings. Unpack it for them.