How to pick a subject to write about

A guide for identifying the ideal topic for opinion pieces

So you want to write an article? This is great news! Now you'll need to identify a subject. This our guide to helping writers find a suitable topic.

Our first piece of advice is to move from a topic to an angle.

For example.

"We want to write about SEO". That's a topic. Huge. Too big for an article. You need an angle.

"We want to write about why the concept of Domain Authority is misunderstood." Bang. Now that's an angle. Narrow. Tightly defined.

Ideally your angle should be provocative and challenge the reader to change their mind about a subject. Do not, and we repeat do not, simply state the obvious.

"Can we write about how treating your employees well is important?" Well, no, because no one disagrees.

"How about how we pay bonuses to staff who pass qualifications?" Okay, now that is unusual and interesting - it'll work.

Sharing expertise is a fertile ground for ideas. Something as simple as "6 small things we do to generate five-star reviews on Trustpilot" can be powerful.

Great writers often say the total reverse of conventional thinking.

Here's Paul Graham, the legendary investor and co-founder of Y Combinator. Now this is a thesis! Which he goes on to justify. Original views like these are why Graham has 1.5 million followers on Twitter.

Or look at Bolt founder Ryan Breslow who gained 100k Twitter followers in four months with cracking threads such as: “12 mindset rules to build a $4B company” and "Be okay being wrong". His stuff is wild and counter-intuitive.

Great formats for articles: Numbered articles work well. "7 things I learned launching in a pandemic". Speculative thinking can be interesting. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a long-read feature called “The Formula: What if you built a machine to predict hit movies?” - the title alone is terrific. "How I did X or Y" are almost always strong.

Just remember, the secret is to narrow your angle until you have a tight focus.

The Financial Times sportswriter Simon Kuper puts it thus:

“Only one idea per article. I once offered an editor an 800-word article. I told him various brilliant points I wanted to make. He pretended to listen patiently, and then said: ‘Most readers can remember only one idea from an article’ Just make one good point, he said, and buttress it with facts and anecdotes. If an hour later the reader can remember your point, that’s a triumph. Since then I have tried to make only one point per article.”

At Business Age we are open to any and all ideas.

When you are ready to pitch email us at: editor@businessage.com