Nearly every day, I’m faced with the same question: What do you write? In response, I find myself responding with another question, every time: For income, or for creative satisfaction?
There’s a huge difference between writing to your creative needs and writing to get paid – which means that someone thinks your writing will be read widely and eagerly. Even when sitting down to write an article, it’s much easier to just write about anything that is personally piquing your interest than it is to research a topic that will be read by a large audience. This, though, is the one rule that every article writer should understand: If you want to earn decent pay, you have to write for an audience.
This is where writing becomes a skill. You have to determine what audience you’re writing for, which means that you’re first going to have to know which “markets” you’d like to target your work to. A trade magazine with several hundred subscribers that is tightly focused on the care and feeding of livestock will have a much more limited scope of topics than a content website like AssociatedContent. So, first, you work within the guidelines of your market. Then, you must further narrow it down between what is more likely to be successful in that market. Given two choices, “How to Grow a Kitchen Garden” and “Shabby Chic on a Budget”, which do you think would be more popular? The answer is pretty obvious, because common sense tells you that interior decorating is going to appeal to many more people than a kitchen container garden will.
So, which subjects tend to be read widely and often? I have run two websites for more than five years, each with its own unique brand of content. The one thing that doesn’t change, though, is that certain subjects always attract more visitors than others. Once you’re very comfortable with the Internet, you start finding ways of predicting what might be more popular – sites like NicheBot.com, which lists the number of searches performed on specific topics and compares those searches to the actual number of results found are a great place to start. Never forget the power of the media, though – neglecting current events on websites like Google News would be a huge mistake. Another great place is the Yahoo! Buzz Log, which chronicles in blog fashion the latest search trends, offers numbers on what’s spiking, and provides some really entertaining commentary in the process.
If you’re not up to the task of starting from scratch, though, there are some perennial stand-bys that will remain popular subjects as long as people continue to read. Subjects that are most likely to draw a reader’s avid attention are the ones that editors will pay the most for – base your articles on these everlasting favorites, and you’ll have made several steps toward making sure that your articles are going to be read.
Popular Article Subjects
Obviously, I can’t give you specific topics. Or, rather, I could give you specific topics but what would be the point of telling you that the title, “Preventing Thrush without Medicine” is going to be popular? By just listing specific titles, I’d completely ruin the point of this article, which is to help you brainstorm ideas for your own unique titles.
Instead, what I’m going to offer here is a run-down of a few popular subjects for articles. By working inside these subjects and refining your actual title and topic to something that is truly unique, that hasn’t been done to death by another series of writers, you can almost guarantee that your work will be valuable.
Children & Babies
Every single aspect of childcare and parenting is in constant demand. New parents are naturally wary of any information that they feel might be “dated” – after all, in our society things are changing constantly. Without the latest information, how is a new parent supposed to know that what was considered safe and wise last year is still considered safe and wise this year? It’s a daunting process, learning to be a parent, and one that none of us are really prepared for.
If you’re a parent yourself, you have a good place to base your work from. You know first-hand the kinds of situations that parents and caretakers might find themselves in, and if you’ve been through it yourself, you undoubtedly have some tips and hints on how someone else might get through it successfully.
Try taking different approaches to the topics you write on than what’s “normally” done. One thing that I see often in parenting magazines is that writers tend to focus on the negative, the traumatic, and then describe ways of getting past those things. Instead, why not look at some of the most beautiful, positive things that have happened because of or to your child, and help other parents find ways of bringing about those same results? The point is that while children and baby articles are really popular, many writers know that – you have to make your work stand out in ways that go beyond topic and title, ways that are all about style and tact.
Some article ideas include (but seriously get more specific than these broad topics):
- Entertaining children of (age range of 1-3 years, generally) during holidays, summer, vacations, road trips, etc.
- Help for parents of picky eaters – ways of developing interest in “new” foods, tactics for getting fussy children to actually eat a wider variety of meals.
- Birthday Parties – themes, locations, games to play … new ideas for parties that appeal to a wide range of parents.
- Schedules – Developing regular sleep schedules, how children respond to a more scheduled routine, how to create routines that benefit both child and parent, etc.
- Children’s room decorating – Interior Decorating is always popular, and often is preceded by a new addition to the home. How to kid-proof a home, making a child’s room “interactive”, or decorating a nursery on a budget are good starters.
Home and Garden
We are a leisure-loving society. The number of families that embark on yearly vacations is higher in the United States than any other country – but most of our leisure time is spent at home, in the comfort of our own surroundings. With this in mind, it’s not at all difficult to understand why articles that focus on these same surroundings are just as popular with today’s audiences as they were some fifty years ago.
Families have an especially hard time maintaining a clutter-free home, a safe-haven for raising children and often including a variety of pets. Couples want a beautiful space that reflects their combined personality so that they can entertain friends and family in style. Women want to have homes that can be easily relaxed in, a constant source of comfort, and men want a home that’s easy to maintain.
When you decide to embark on home and garden articles, start with what you know and live every day. Look around yourself, at both the good and the bad, and brainstorm questions that you, personally, would like to know the answer to. Perhaps you’ve devised a way of organizing your closet that you’ve never seen anyone else do – there’s someone out there who’s dying to read what you’ve done. Maybe you have been considering painting your walls, but want to go beyond basic paint – what styles are available that you would be interested in using? Again, there are readers who would love you to bits for sharing what you learn with them.
Within this really limitless subject, some broad article topics to work with include:
- Decorating (specific room) on a budget – everyone feels the pinch of money, and anything that can be made beautiful without spending lots of cash will always be popular.
- Throwing a successful dinner party – from decorating to recipes, or a combination of both. If you have the word space and inclination, things like appropriate attire for specific occasions is definitely recommended as well.
- Low maintenance gardening – home owners want their yards to be beautiful, but most of us would rather spend our leisure time … well, leisurely. Gardens that require little water, gardens that deter weeds or pests, and theme gardens are good article topics.
- Cleaning tips – Ways to clean hard-to-clean stuff, using natural ingredients instead of commercially-bought chemicals, and tips for keeping spaces clean after the cleaning’s done (especially with children and family running through the freshly cleaned rooms), will be appreciated by readers and editors alike.
Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us have a desire to love and be loved. Dreaming of romance, great sex, and the comfort and security of a loving, stable relationship are part and parcel of the human experience. Despite what many believe, these kind of articles are popular among men as well as women – and not just among the young, either.
Take a look at a magazine targeted to a male audience like Details, for example. Right alongside reviews of the latest music, technical gadgets, and career advice are perhaps surprising articles about how to improve relationships, becoming more attractive, and even more in-depth topics like why men tend to like heavier women but are afraid to let “the guys” know that. Women’s magazines are also filled with relationship advice, but if you peek inside health magazines, you might be surprised to find articles in there, as well, that tout the health benefits of strong, loving relationships.
I have recommended in each of these subject areas to start from your own standpoint. Look around yourself, take stock of your own experiences, and write from the heart. It’s a basic writer’s tenet: Write what you know. If you’ve ever been in the habit of keeping a journal or diary, now’s the time to dig that baby out and relive some of the emotions you’ve had in relationships. Then, share your personal knowledge, hints, tips, and even heartbreaks with your readers.
Topics that might get you going include:
- Attracting a mate – we all want to feel attractive, and few of us actually do. Often, these articles take the form of self-help with the twist of liking yourself more so that others can like you, too.
- Great Dates – Where to take your dates, theme dates, dates on a budget of (price range), and dating etiquette are well-read pieces because they offer the nervous dater something to work with.
- Alternative Dating – Online dating services, speed dating, and dating within a specific interest (based on hobbies, lifestyle choices, etc) are becoming increasingly popular because the technology that drives many alternative dating practices is changing constantly. Reviews and exposes are popular, as well as the true-to-life story of couples who have happily met through one of these methods.
- Sex Tips – yup, you’re definitely going to have to be brave once you put your name to one of these articles. Banish thoughts of “what would mom think?!” from your mind and share your own insights – by and large, this subject alone contains perhaps more individual topics than any other within the relationships field. It is extremely popular and gaining popularity as couples are moving towards a belief that sexual pleasure is not only okay, a thought which would have been extremely risky to voice thirty years ago, but that it’s something which should be expected as a right.
- Affairs and Cheating – Trying to learn whether a partner is, in fact, having an affair is a topic that could turn into a book all on its own. Other topics, though, include working through the pain of an affair, deciding whether the relationship can withstand the effects of an affair, and how to trust again after a partner has cheated on you. This type of writing takes a special tone, because readers are often hurting and need a gentle hand that doesn’t lead them into conclusions of the writer’s making, but helps them explore their own thoughts and needs.
Obviously, these three areas aren’t the only popular ones – but, hey, every writer has to keep a little something to themselves, right? After you’ve explored some of these subjects, though, and learned what topics within them sell well, you can apply that knowledge to other markets. Spend some time at the magazine rack in your library or local supermarket, and take notes of what titles are appearing on the covers. Headline titles are the ones that editors expect will sell the issue, so these are subjects that are definitely worth further exploration.