There's a lot to learn from "What Can We Learn from" articles
Storytelling Content Creation

Content Creation Tips: What Can We Learn from “What We Can Learn” Articles

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People reading online content have a lot to learn, and people writing online content have a lot to share. Or maybe people writing online content think that people reading online content have a lot to learn. Whatever the case, “What Can We Learn from ____” is an extremely popular article angle right now. In fact, the term returns about 19,100,000 pages from a Google search. That’s approximately one page for each person in the state of New York. I, myself, have even taken some content creation tips from this trend, delving into children’s books and baseball cards to learn lessons about content marketing.

results from Google

Why are these articles so popular? It’s hard to say. It might be because people like to find hidden value in the things they love. Or it might be because there’s really a lot to learn from seemingly disconnected topics. It could be because these articles are really popular, and everyone wants to get in on the trend.

Probably, it’s all three.

Are These Articles Any Good?

With almost twenty million articles and counting, there’s bound to be a lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot in between.

The Avengers movie artWriters and readers should make sure they know the difference between “learning from” a topic and “learning about” it. Consider a hypothetical article covering what we can learn about teamwork from The Avengers. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? The writer could approach this in one of two ways:

  • Learning about: This article would tell readers about the Avengers. It would describe how they were brought together and how they successfully defeated an enemy. Although it may give more depth about the actual film and characters, it would stop before giving the advice, lessons, or actionable items that the first example provided. We would end up with a great description of the friendship dynamics between the heroes, perhaps even evaluating the differences between the established friendship between Black Widow and Hawkeye versus the new friendships between Iron Man and Captain America.
  • Learning from: This article would focus on extracting examples of teamwork from the film and applying them to real-life situations. Agent Coulson must bring a group of disparate, egotistical, powerful people together to work as one unit. Many managers can relate to this, so the article could describe what tactics Coulson used and how they can be translated to a workplace setting. Stark and Banner have to learn to share information as equals instead of working independently. We can use their journey to find ways to help leaders at our own workplace to put ego aside and share responsibility and reward.

Which is better? Neither one is really better than the other. The sticking point is the title. If your article promises to extract lessons from a particular item, it should deliver. Just like how clickbait titles are often misleading because the promise of the title rarely delivers within the actual content. This article about what we can learn from musical theater is a great example of learning from. The author gives examples and insights from musicals, but she directly ties each into content marketing strategies.

Can We Really Learn Anything from These Articles?

So what can we learn from “What Can We Learn” articles? These content creation tips can help you if you decide to venture down this path.

  1. Make sure your article delivers on the promise of the title. If you say you’re going to teach something, you should have real lessons in the article.
  2. Be creative. The best articles combine unexpected topics and find commonalities. But…
  3. …don’t end up on Saved You a Click. While I love reading this Twitter feed, being featured on it is not something to strive for. Don’t choose subjects just because they’re popular or trending. Make sure you teach a lesson through your topic that your audience will value.
  4. Ensure the lessons are specific to your subject. Ask yourself if you could substitute another topic into the article. Could I easily change the musicals article to “What Musical Theater Can Teach Us about Working as a Team?” No. That’s a good sign.
  5. Be open, both as a writer and a reader. There are good pieces of advice, insight, and content creation tips waiting to be discovered in these articles.

Want to become a better storyteller while maximizing your content creation efficiency? Download our free eBook: How to Start a Story, and How You Know You’re Done.

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