Facts vs. opinions? A contentious issue to be heard hotly discussed on many a lecture room or seminar floor.
When it comes to writing blogs – or anything else for that matter, most particularly news – there is an eternal battle between presenting information as fact and information as opinion. Whilst each have their merits, it is important to understand the differences between the two in order to present a balanced viewpoint for your readers.
Some pieces of writing that you do will be a straight presentation of facts. These will be you infographics, tables, graphs and other objective data. On the other side of the table, opinion pieces are you presenting your own subjective viewpoint on a particular topic or issue.
One is not necessarily better than the other, but striking the right balance between the two can be important. You can, if you wish, market yourself as a pure opinion or factual blogger, but most people try to find a middle ground between the two. The problem with opinions is that sometimes, they can be rude, exclude certain groups, be offensive or just mildly annoying (think UK pro-toll Katie Hopkins)
When writing an opinion piece, you are taking a side on a particular issue and trying to communicate to your audience why you believe your chosen side to be the correct one.
These kinds of blogs are great for promoting discussion on a topic and encouraging people to comment, like and share your work. If people feel strongly about a subject then they are often very quick and willing to let you know – especially if they disagree with it. I fact, research shows that the only type of content more popular than that which encourages reads and shares is negative or controversial opinion. Positive opinion outweighs it, but only just.
The benefits to you can work in a couple of different ways. Either a conversation will take off in your comments section, which is great for when Google is deciding how important your site is in terms of search engine rankings. On the other hand people may write their own blogs offering a different perspective on what you have written, and may link to your article as a reference, which is again good for when you are trying to butter up Google.
When constructing an opinion piece, it is best to present your viewpoint in a polite, professional and non-confrontational way. The last thing you want is to gain a reputation for being a troll, however intellectual you may consider yourself to be.
Factual blogs are also called discussion blogs and they seek to promote online activity in a different way to opinion blogs. Whereas opinion pieces seek to spark off discussion by taking a stance on a subject and seeing if people agree or disagree with you, discussion blogs are different.
Discussion blogs will usually present factual information as just that. They will involve graphs, table and infographics and the text of the article will do little more than annotate the presented data. They are usually simple statements of what is happening in the data and the author will usually refrain from offering any of their own insight or opinion on the matter.
The idea then is that the presented data sparks discussion as the audience picks through it and then offer their opinions on the topic. This way, discussion piece writers can often promote discussion without having to worry about causing offence or alienating anybody. People are usually happy to give their opinion if you ask for it (or even if you don’t) and this can be a great and low stress way of fostering discussion. Of course, you also have to consider that people love to get offended online and are always likely to come at you with fake, manufactured outrage – so be prepared to deal with these.
Comparing The Two
Basically, opinion pieces can be more inflammatory and thus have an easier time prompting discussion. Discussion blogs on the other hand may take a bit more work to gain traction, but you are less likely to attract aggressive comments (at least ones that are aimed at you that is) and generally have a more relaxing time of it.
Most of the really popular bloggers on the internet tend to take more of a neutral stance and concentrate on discussion pieces, but opinion bloggers can certainly achieve success as well. However, if your blog is a smaller facet of your business’ online efforts, then take care with opinion pieces as, if you are seen as too much of a troll, then it could come back to bite you as people may not want to deal with a company that puts out such divisive or inflammatory material.
The important thing is to make sure that you are writing in a way that you enjoy. If you are not enjoying what you are writing then it will come out in your articles and your audience will detect it. Perhaps more important is that you’re writing what your audience enjoy and can take away extra tips, tricks and education from if your blog is to become a really useful resource that see visitors come back on time and again
As an exercise, why not go through your old blogs and divide them into the two categories.
Think about which ones you really enjoyed writing and which got the best responses from your readership. If you concentrate on these types of articles, you will find that you will enjoy your writing again and may see your audience grow as a result.
Do you write blogs and, if so, do you consider yourself to be more of an opinion or discussion writer? Maybe you’ve found a great balance between the two?
Either way, we would love to hear about it, so let’s get talking!