— August 17, 2017
Did you know that 59% of articles are shared without being read? A study published by Forbes in August 2016 found that the average social share involved little to no engagement with the actual article being shared.
It turns out that the average internet user will pass along an article without ever actually reading the content it contains.
At Presto Media, we have found that general news articles and some long-form content will see less than a 30% engagement rate on scrolling. That means a majority of visitors will read 30% of the article and decide whether to abandon the content or share it before leaving.
One of the easiest ways to kill reader engagement is to bury the lede. Simply put, the lede is the who, what, where, why, and when of the article. The lede isn’t a new concept, major news publications have been focused on strong lede structuring for years.
In the publishing industry, a reverse pyramid setup is utilized. The most important and engaging content is shared first and the least valuable information is shared at the end of the article. Digital content should be no different.
The Lede In The Age Of Digital Content
Admittedly, the nature of a lede has somewhat changed in the age of digital content. Readers have shorter attention spans as they jump from one publication to the next and shift focus between serious news content, fun listicles, general news stories, personality quizzes, and other forms of publishing.
What does that mean for content? If you don’t deeply engage with a reader in the first one to two sentences, you are likely to lose them as they look for more engaging content to consume.
Creating An Engaging Lede In 5 Simple Steps
Bring Immediate Value. Immediately bring value to the content with an important statement that explains why the reader should keep reading to become educated, amused, and generally interested in the content being displayed.
Writers Digest wrote up a great piece about “excavating” the best piece of content that will engage with readers, we highly recommend you read through their article.
One of the key factors explored by Writers Digest is the ability to share your story out loud with a friend or family member. Do they understand where the story is going? Do they see the value in what you are attempting to convey? If the story can’t be explained quickly and in simple terms, it is likely to lose a large chunk of readers from the get go.
Focus On The Title And Build A Lede Around The Headline. Forbes wants us to believe that 59% of people only share the headline and don’t read the story. So what happens when their followers start to visit your website? They obviously expect to learn about the topic they have clicked through to read. To keep actual readers engaged your lede needs to speak directly to the headline.
Focus On Initial Content That Will Require A Deeper Understanding. To avoid the short attention span problem make sure your reader understands the point of the article in the lede while leaving them with questions. Curiosity is by far the best way to improvement engagement. If a reader feels they will learn something valuable they can share with others, they are far more likely to keep reading.
Tell The Reader To Keep Reading. This sounds simple but so many pieces of content fail to create a call to action for readers. A call to action doesn’t need to be complex, for example, you may tell a reader they won’t get the point of the article unless they see the information provided.
Keep It Simple. Don’t try to be the next Kerouac or Hemingway. Content performs best when it’s simple to read and easy to comprehend. The Flesch–Kincaid readability test is a great metric to utilize. Writing at a 5th to 8th-grade level increases engagement exponentially. You can easily test your Flesch-Kincaid readability score for free at WebpageFX.
Ultimately, a lede needs to quickly engage a reader by providing major talking points with a call to action that drives readers further into a piece of content. Focus on making a reader understand the topic quickly while promising to make them an expert if they completely read the entire article.
Diagram. Diagram. Diagram.
If you’re stuck on how to lede your reader through your story, here’s a simple tip, diagram out your work on a whiteboard or in a notebook. Just like any brainstorming session, this ensures you can clearly demonstrate how you plan to lede a reader through an entire piece of content.
Start with a large emphasis on the lede and then break down the article into smaller sections that provide value to the major thought bubble on your diagram. Make sure the pieces stay connected and flow evenly, ensuring a value-add for the reader throughout the entire published piece.
A simple flow diagram is a great way to ensure you have all the facts covered while developing a storyline that will provide value throughout the entire piece of content.