How to write a feature story

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At Hypergrid Business, feature stories really let us get into a topic. We’re looking for news about how virtual reality is used in non-gaming applications, such as business, education, government, and non-profits. We’re also always looking for trends and insights into virtual reality software, hardware, and platforms — and, in particular, about OpenSim and the hypergrid.

Send ideas for feature stories to [email protected]. The more surprising, the better!

Do not write articles “on spec.” If we can’t use them, it’s a waste of your time and ours, and annoys everyone you interviewed.

Here are the guidelines for a news story.

Length: Around 800 to 1,500 words

Headline: Should summarize the story briefly and include an action verb: someone did something.

Outline:

  • Start with a problem or a trend. This could be a whole paragraph, a group of paragraphs, or even just part of a sentence.
  • Your “nut graf” should summarize three solutions to the problem or three examples of the trend.
    • Example: Virtual reality can be expensive, but some companies have found ways to cut costs by using smartphones, open source software, and outsourcing.
    • Another example: As prices drop, manufacturers are increasing their use of virtual reality in prototyping, collaboration, and marketing.
    • Another example: Movie studios are increasing the use of virtual reality for marketing, such as the recent campaigns for Iron Man 3, Insurgent, and The Avengers.
  • Follow up with three sections, one for each solution or trend example, each with its own subhead.
  • Yes, it’s usually three. If you don’t have three, try hard to make it three.
  • Each paragraph should have a clear source. Where did you get this information? Where appropriate, provide links.
  • Every second or third paragraph should be a quote.
  • The conclusion can circle back to the original problem, or have some information about what’s coming in the future.

Sources: Your own interviews, press releases, videos, Kickstarter campaigns, new apps, other publications, and research reports.

Quotes: 

  • Each quote should have its own paragraph.
  • On first reference, include the person’s full legal name, title, company or organization, where the company is based, and a link to its website.
    • Example: “Our virtual reality headset cures cancer,” John Smith, CEO of Atlanta-based Snake Oil Inc. told Hypergrid Business. “And it’s gluten-free.”
  • On second reference, say “he said” or “she said,” or use the person’s last name. If it’s been more than three paragraphs since they were quoted last, also include the company name.
  • Use the verbs “said,” “told,” and “added.” Mostly — “said.” Other verbs carry emotional connotations. Avoid them at all costs.
  • With each quote, include its source and a link when appropriate.
  • The best way to get quotes is to contact the source directly, either in person, by phone, by Skype, by email, via chat, or through an in-world meeting.
  • When contacting people, if you have been assigned the story by Hypergrid Business, you can tell people that you are writing for us. Feel free to refer them to your editor for confirmation.
  • Other places to get quotes include social media posts, forum posts, press releases, videos, and other news outlets.
    • Example: “The regulators are trying to shut us down,” Snake Oil’s Smith said in a Tweet yesterday. “When did good marketing become a criminal offense?”
  • Note that the attribution comes after the first part of the quote, not before, and that the punctuation is inside the quotation marks.

Photo sources:

  • Press releases, product images on shopping websites, images from promotional websites.
  • Stills from video games or videos.
  • Flickr images licensed for commercial use.
  • Any public domain images, including images from Wikipedia Commons and government websites.
  • Images that previously ran in Hypergrid Business.
  • Original photographs that you took yourself.
  • Photographs provided by sources, when those sources own the rights to the images, and give us permission to use them.
  • We cannot use images that belong to other publications — editorial privilege only goes so far.
  • Attach or link to the largest version of the image. Write a caption describing what the image is. Write a credit line describing the source of the image.

Format:

  • File as plain text or RTF file.
  • Use systematic filenames. For example, HB-2015-month-StoryTopic-AuthorName-v1.rtf
  • When filing a rewrite, use a different filename. In the example above, for instance, change the -v1 to -v2 or -v3.
  • Include a title and your byline at the top of the story.
  • Include links as relevant in the text.
  • Include at least one image, either as link or attachment, with a caption and credit.
  • If there’s a video, include the embed code for the video.
  • If this is your first time filing, include your photo as an attachment, a one-or-two-sentence bio, and a link to your website.

Examples:

Rights:

  • Unless we ask you to sign an all-rights contract, by default, we only get one-time publication rights to freelance contributions.
  • You retain your original copyright to the story, and are free to publish it in other publications.
  • You can publish it on your own website, or include it in a book. Really, you can do anything you want with it.
  • If you like, you can include a link back to the Hypergrid Business story, but you don’t have to.
  • If we want to reuse your story for another purpose, such as inclusion in a book, we will ask your permission first.