|By Sarah Cocchimiglio
Profitcom Writer & Editor
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he days of long-winded, loquacious media reports are gone.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that the Associated Press had handed down a directive for its wire service writers and editors to keep most news articles to a max of 500 words.
The memo, issued by Associated Press Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano, cited the short staffs and dwindling budgets at member publications, who no longer have the resources to trim and tighten lengthy articles to fit small news holes. He also referenced journalistic responsibility, saying, “We are failing to exercise important news judgment when our stories are overlong and not tightly edited.”
Most of the AP’s 2,000 daily stories will now be in the neighborhood of 350-500 words, with top stories and international news given slightly lengthier word budgets – although even these are expected to be tightly written and edited.
To give the directive added emphasis, Carovillano’s memo itself stayed within the guidelines, coming in at 476 words.
When I was in journalism school in the late 90s, I learned the Inverted Pyramid style of writing: Start with the most important information first, because you’ve got to grab your reader’s attention within about the first 30 words, or risk losing them. Write from the top, down. Once you’ve got the reader on the hook, then you deliver the rest of the facts, and hope they read to the end of your story.
Now, with the evolution of digital media, the need for brevity and impact has never been more important, because our readers have never had less time, shorter attention spans or more distractions. We need to be informative and persuasive, while being concise and respectful of every moment of our readers’ time. Less is more.
The new normal for crafting media is becoming short and sweet. The Inverted Pyramid style will certainly still be taught and employed, its shape just a little shorter and a lot skinner.