The Art of Tackling Trending Topics
Here at GameSkinny you're given a platform to write about whatever you wish. They also have the excellent Journalist Training Program (JTP), where budding writers can learn the ropes.
As part of the latter, it's important to address the former: That freedom to write whatever you like can result in virtual oblivion. Of course, any good writer knows that what's popular isn't necessarily good and that goes double for this industry, unfortunately. Your extremely well-written, in-depth, insightful piece about the history of video games, while it's a shining example of effort and skill, may not get more than a hundred views.
This is due to a combination of reasons, including SEO and length issues. Here, we discuss why such a great article won't get a fraction of the attention a trending topic will.
A few minutes of research is all you need
It's not complicated. You won't have to spend an hour trying to figure out what's hot and what's not. You'll spot the "hot" in a matter of seconds...that's kinda why it's hot. Just check the trends on social media and Google, and find the games on N4G that rise to the top of the temperature list. Which titles are hitting hardest? Well, for the past few months, it has been The Last Of Us: Remastered and Destiny, and then everything else. Hence, if you were interested in generating a fair amount of traffic, you were writing multiple articles with those games in the title.
You also need to pin down specific trending topics. For instance, we know Remastered was huge but why was it huge? Well, a bit more research would've revealed ongoing arguments concerning the frames per second issue. For Destiny, it was all about the beta test. Sure, you could write about your enduring love of Titanfall or inFamous: Second Son several months after the fact, or you could write about how Bloodborne will be a big title for the PlayStation 4. The latter idea might do well (provided you approach it properly) but in the end, none will do half as well as the trending topics.
Two points: 1. Don't rehash and repeat, and 2. Stand out
1. The problem with all those headlines is that it's easy to rehash existing articles. Worry less about the source of those articles; worry more that such articles have already gained the traction you seek. Hence, readers are less likely to click on a similar headline, simply because they've already spent an hour debating virtually the same topic.
You have to put your own spin on the hot topic. You need to offer something fresh, and the headline had better reflect that. Sadly, the vast majority of your reading audience won't bother with the actual text unless the headline hits them right between the eyes. One can easily find a bevy of comments directed towards articles that don't make much sense, primarily because the commenters only read the headline. So, be unique, and ensure the headline reflects that originality.
2. Standing out means not writing a wishy-washy headline. Make a claim, take a stand. "Destiny is a Guaranteed Game of the Year Contender" will undoubtedly get more attention than, "Is Destiny a Game of the Year Contender?" In all forms of writing and journalism, readers are drawn to statements as opposed to questions. "I'm Not Sure If..." won't do anywhere near as well as "I'm Certain That..."
Focusing on trending topics shouldn't stunt creativity... quite the opposite, in fact
Many will say that simply nailing the trending topics is the "easy way out," that it requires no thought. They'll claim that all you're doing is kowtowing to the masses. Well, the readers do dictate. And as traffic and attention drives the online world, you had best accept that fact. At the same time, you have to be very creative to make it work; putting your own spin on subjects that have been analyzed to death is challenging. Good headline writing is a skill. Knowledge of SEO is important.
So, by all means, be proud of that meticulously researched piece you wrote that spanned 1,000+ words and touched on all sorts of intriguing points. Just don't be surprised when it goes nowhere. Doesn't mean you shouldn't write it; just means you have to balance a little.