The next time I get an idea for a feature, or become aware of a breaking story, from a FanPost, will be about the 200th time it's happened. They're an extremely useful tool in putting together a community-focused site with outstanding content and a sense of history.
The frequency of these posts has dropped a bit since SB Nation launched its "United" platform. Some of the staples (like the Hate Guide) are still there, and we've even dipped into a few writers through this resource.
To me, though, content should only reflect the level of quality in which that content is created. Since I do not edit FanPosts, nor will I in most cases, but am always willing to pull one onto the front page, I wanted to take a minute this morning to give you some insight into my decision-making process of moving a FanPost to the "front page" (old vernacular), as well as ask your feedback on how we can improve the format of FanPosts as they currently sit.
First, the improvement piece. Please respond in comments (constructive and specific suggestions are awesome), why do you like FanPosts, how is the FanPost feature better or worse now than it was previously, what specifically should be done to improve it and anything else related to the topic that could help us take it in a different direction.
As for tips and suggestions to get FanPosts moved...to clarify, FanPosts cannot be placed in the "Cover," which is the area at the very top of the page with the photo collage. They can be moved into the "River," which is the area below the cover, that snakes down the page.
There are certain things that jump out to me immediately upon reading any article. First and foremost, it's the headline. I admit to not being the best headline writer in the world, but because I'm not, I know where people tend to get a bit off the beaten path with them.
Don't overthink them. Subect, verb, object. Compelling is good, but if you can't think of that turn of phrase to really set it on fire, or just simply don't have time, remember the K.I.S.S. model - Keep It Simple, Stupid.
True story, the K.I.S.S. model is really Keep It Short and Simple, but I felt adding the word "and" to the acronym was contradictory to the point of keeping it simple, especially since I found a better way to explain it. I wrote a paper using my version, and got a "C" because my teacher felt I was belittling the audience with it.
She hated me.
Anyway...second most important part to your article is your "lead" (or "lede," depending on how old-school you are). That first sentence or two, that first paragraph, has to be good enough to catch my attention. And I don't mean whether you're "breaking" a story about Mike Tomlin secretly having been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It needs to be something sharp, witty, interesting and/or compelling.
Rule of writing: If you don't get the reader's attention immediately, you don't get the reader's attention. Write as if you're trying to grab them by the collar. Throw some cold water in their face. People's most valuable commodity is their time. Every time you write something for an audience, you are auditioning for some of that time, and those auditions are very short. If you don't give them a reason to spend that time reading your stuff, they won't read it. It's as simple as that. Your headline and your lead are the best ways to pass that audition (or if you can play "Get Back" on a rooftop in London, you'll probably pass that audition).
As an aside, never (ever) start your column with the word "Well." I can promise you now I won't put a FanPost in the River if it starts with the word "well." I'd delete it first, but odds of it being moved go down substantially if it starts with that word.
Let's start with that for now. If the feedback is good, maybe we'll do some more of these. I'd really like to see some of you give it a shot, and I'm more than willing to work with you on it if you legitimately do want to try. I did the newspaper thing and it turned out to not be my cup of tea for reasons outside of writing - which I enjoy immensely. I've stuck with writing for a while now, and if it's something you enjoy yourself, I encourage you to write a FanPost or two.
More than anything, though, I'd really like to get your feedback, now in our second month of United, on how we can adjust/tweak/modify the FanPost piece of the site. I appreciate your time and support, thank you again.