Hard news, essays, reports, reviews, case studies … there are plenty of different kinds of articles a writer can write. So, what is a feature article and what makes it different from the rest?
An article is a piece of nonfiction that addresses a particular topic. To “feature” a topic means to give it special attention. Put together, you can think of a feature article as a piece of content that offers special attention to a subject.
Not bad, as definitions go. But as a writer, you may want to know more.
Hard news offers basic facts about an event:
A feature article is a piece of news told as a story. It’s a story that digs deeper to answer why and how. A feature article offers analysis and commentary, often highlighting one angle of the subject. When you write a feature, you go beyond the facts to weave in a narrative or present content in a compelling way so that the reader is (horrors, must I say it?) entertained.
As in …
Further, a feature is typically not time-sensitive. While breaking news is often reported in real-time (at least online), a feature article has a longer shelf life. In fact, it’s not uncommon for features to be evergreen, meaning they stay relevant long after publication. That means you can read a feature now or in a week or even in six months or a year, and the content will still be valid.
Ask different editors, journalists, and writers what the purpose of a feature article is and you’ll get all kinds of answers. But the general agreement: a feature article entertains while it informs.
The premise is the same, whether it’s a feature article in a newspaper or a feature article in a magazine or a feature article in an online publication or newsletter.
A feature article is a news article, but it goes further in-depth by offering an angle or slant on the topic. Because of that, a feature article is longer than a straight-up news story.
Features cover trending topics, subjects, or personalities. The following is not an exhaustive list. But it can give you an idea of the different ways you can slant a feature article.
Behind-the-Scenes features: readers love getting the inside scoop. Use a feature article to shadow a subject for a day or show little-known facts about a well-known event. The secret to a successful behind-the-scenes feature is to offer juicy tidbits or surprising insights that readers may not expect.
Human interest features: these articles mimic profile features, but rather than targeting one person they tell the story about an experience, program, cause, event, or triumph. Human interest features can also offer a twist, often sparking surprise. Write about achievements or problems that evoke emotions and can teach the audience a lesson or raise awareness about an important or current issue.
Lifestyle features; beauty, fashion, home décor, gardening, health, family, music, crafts. A lifestyle blog offers tips, inspiration, and products for readers to use to make their lives better.
News feature: Like a social/cultural feature (see below), a news feature addresses a topic that people are talking about, but in this case it takes an unexpected slant on current events. Or you could write an historical feature. This news feature subcategory won’t focus on hoop skirts or the discovery of Haley’s Comet. You take ideas a step further and connect them to current events, showing how hoop skirts became popular, who led the trend, and how they’re tied to the latest below-the-knee craze. As for Haley’s Comet – a news article about upcoming meteor showers can highlight the history of telescopes or the story of how a local planetarium was built.
Personal experience features: written in first person, these articles allow you to share a personal story and how the event, activity, or person changed your life.
Popular science features: Where can you recycle batteries and printer ink? How does a laser templator help fabricators make kitchen countertops? Readers love content that explains why things work, especially if you throw in a practical application or information about everyday use.
Profile features: while a profile can give a timeline of the subject’s life, the best zero in on one angle, event, or accomplishment in the individual’s life and why that slant is significant. Maybe a person released a book about her journey out of addiction. Or a publication wants to showcase local gardeners and your subject raises award-winning iris. Your feature article gives readers insight into one facet of a person’s life.
Review features: products, events, activities – write a review to demonstrate advantages and disadvantages, features and benefits, costs and savings, quality and mediocrity, usefulness and superfluousness.
Seasonal features: “Why the Presidential Inauguration is in January.” “Make a Thanksgiving Dinner to Impress the Pickiest Relatives.” Seasonal feature articles are specific to a certain time of year.
Social/cultural features: Also called “interpretive features,” these articles address a certain problem – cultural, political, or economic – by choosing a slant, explaining your reasoning with facts and expert input, and offering a conclusion. For instance, an interpretive feature about homeschooling could address why the phenomenon has taken root in certain areas of your country over others.
Travel features: publications are hungry for articles that highlight the best barbeque sandwiches in Auburn, Alabama … what to pack for four days of hiking in Utah’s national parks … unusual Airbnb properties in the Azores … how to exchange currency when you travel to Uganda.
You can think of a feature story as a news story on steroids. After all a typical news story is short, averaging 100-400 words (depending upon the publication). It’s meant to be digested quickly because it’s only “new” news for a short time. But a feature article? It can run anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words or more.
That’s because a feature article does more than simply report Who, What, Where, and When. It demonstrates Why and even How. A feature article shows a problem or challenge … what happened … and what changed.
Let your reader see pain, failure, and stress right along with achievement, victory, and solutions. You’ll give them a feature that they remember. And it may even be one that makes a difference for them.
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