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 'Give me perspective', sharing useful formats, writing tips and - critically - when to use this approach. Let's get started!

The user need 'Give me perspective'

These articles serve to help readers form their own opinions about a subject. It's where analysts and experts have their say, explaining complex matters so the average reader can understand what it means for them. These stories are often filled with opinions and quotes offering different perspectives on the matter, or demonstrating the pros and cons of any given issue. The ultimate goal is to help a reader determine how a news event might impact their daily lives, or that of their loved ones. This helps the reader form their own opinion on it, so they can participate in conversations or discussions.

empower the reader to form their own opinions

Why should you write 'Give me perspective' pieces?

Many readers don't have the knowledge necessary to interpret a news fact and determine what it will mean for them. With particularly complicated subjects, it helps to let experts do the talking. Newspapers are often critiqued for over-editorialising, so by shifting the ‘editorial’ role to the reader you’re empowering them to form their own opinions based on a holistic understanding of the issue. It’s about showing the workings, showing the differing viewpoints, and letting them reach their own conclusions. Do this and your audience will value you as an independent source, willing and able to show different sides to the story and help them decide how they (should) feel about something too.

When to write a 'Give me perspective' story

Especially with events that affect a large number of people, it pays to use the 'Give me perspective' approach. Think about politics and elections, or lawmaking. But, decisions that affect a smaller community, such as building plans for a certain area, are great for 'Give me perspective' as well. Pay attention to your audience; if your comment section shows confusion, discussion or people quoting experts, a follow up with the 'Give me perspective' approach is likely to get lots of attention from your followers.

ready, set, go

Getting started with a 'Give me perspective' story

Start by asking these questions:

  • Is this an event where people should pick a side? Do they have the power to vote about something? How will it affect them?
  • Is there a conflict between two parties? Why can't they agree?
  • Are people required or requested to switch from one thing to another? What happens if they do?
  • Who's involved? How were they influential?

It's important to involve experts on the matter, who know exactly what the consequences will be and can outline it in understandable words. The goal of the article will be for readers to gain enough understanding to weigh things against one another, and take their stance in the matter.

Useful formats for a 'Give me perspective' piece

The most typical formats for a 'Give me perspective' piece are:

  • A profile
  • Analysis
  • Background piece
  • Interview
  • Obituary
  • Op-ed

A good 'Give me perspective' headline

The headline of a 'Give me perspective' piece will usually have a question at the end, or have the form of a quote to indicate the nature of the story. This helps your readers understand what need they can hope to have fulfilled by this piece. Often you’ll put the ‘Opinion’ or ‘Point of view’ in your headline to indicate this user need from the off.

Great examples of 'Give me perspective' pieces

Dmitry's Pro tip

"Informing your audience is a major obligation of most newsrooms, however you can inform people without necessarily updating them - you can provide background, opinions, points of view. You can present conflicting points of view and let users pick a side.

Again, it’s very important to signal this user need in your headline - I see lots of ‘Give me perspective’ pieces presented online with an ‘Update me’ headline and these pieces get through the cracks. If you have a question mark in your headline, make sure you answer the question by summarising all the arguments at the end, like this podcast: What will Donald Trump do next? (at 22’40’’)."