The most common question I get asked by other people is: where do I get good story ideas from?
The short answer is: I use a variety of sources to find interesting story ideas for feature articles. Sometimes I’ve fallen down the Internet rabbit role following one article after another – but on the flip side, I’ve also found some great ideas and research studies for future articles.
In this post, I share 7 ways I find interesting feature article topics. I’ve also pitched these ideas to magazine editors and been commissioned.
1.Reading a magazine or newspaper 
If I’m interested in writing for a particular magazine, I read it cover to cover, sometimes twice or thrice. I get ideas simply by reading the articles, because while I’m reading, my brain is thinking of other ideas.
You can brainstorm angles from these articles, so if there’s a story on why nuts are not good for you in one issue, you can pitch a story on why nuts are the new superfood and refer back to the first article.
When Cory Monteith from Glee died, TV, magazines and radio were reporting on it constantly. I got the idea of pitching a round-up article to Essential Kids (parenting section of Sydney Morning Herald) on what to do when the television worries your child. This was my first successful pitch to EK.
My first published article for Fitness First magazine titled ‘ An internal spotlight on stress‘ came about because of my weekly gym visits. I saw there was an article on dealing with stress every other month in their monthly magazine. The symptoms and effects of stress are well known – so I flipped the idea on its head and focused on what happens inside our bodies when stressed.
2. Conversations with friends and family
When I’m chatting with friends and family, something they’ll say will trigger a great idea for a feature article. A friend who told me her six year old daughter kept lying to her and then denied it even when she was found out led to when your child won’t stop lying for Essential Kids.
Another friend who was planning her wedding and handling crisis after crisis during the planning led to Destination Weddings: the good, the bad and the ugly for Life & Style, SMH.
So the next time you’re talking with someone, keep an open ear for any complaints or juicy bits: there might be a story in there.
3. Websites that publish press releases
If you’re at a loss for trends or ideas, browsing through websites that publish press releases like Media Connections can be a valuable source of ideas or to find interesting people with a good backstory. PR Log and PR newswire also publish press releases. You can filter the press releases by country. These websites can have good story ideas for trade publications.
The downside: too many press releases to read. I’ve signed up for these in the past and regretfully had to unsubscribe because my inbox got flooded.
Tip: Skim the headings and if they’re of interest click through to the PR.
This story on Eric Agyeman for The Newcomer magazine came from a press release on Media Connections.  I did pitch him for another story to an editor for a major magazine but after an initial interest and multiple follow ups from me, unfortunately it didn’t get picked up.
4. Upcoming events
Upcoming events like markets, red-carpet events, celebrity visits and movie launches are a good way to hook an editor’s interest especially if it’s high profile.
I recently pitched a profile of an actor (in an upcoming movie) to his local suburb newspaper and it got accepted. Thinking local sometimes can lead to a paid story. Be creative in looking for publications to pitch to and don’t ignore niche publications and your local area newspapers.
5. Blog posts by other writers
You can get good ideas from reading posts by other bloggers. Often, they have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening and can be a great interviewee/case study especially if they’re also writing on a similar topic you want to pitch.
Reading a parenting blog led to why fatherhood scares many dads-to-be for Essential Baby. The blogger was a perfect case study for my article as he’d written on this subject previously.
Reading another blog post on holiday etiquette led to this story on dealing with oversharing relatives on Facebook for Life & Style. This time, I interviewed the blogger as an expert since she had a business focused on social media.
6. Community festivals
I live in a multiculturally diverse suburb so we have various cultural festivals throughout the year. By attending an Africultures festival two years ago, I got an idea to write an article on group drumming after taking part in it.
It led to my first in-flight magazine article for Kenya Airways titled To the Beat of the Drum on the benefits of drum therapy. I also didn’t have to look too far for the expert – I interviewed the instructor who was supervising the group drumming at the festival. Turns out he owned a drum therapy business and was more than happy to be interviewed for the article and supply photographs.
7. Niche websites
Niche websites are a fantastic source of statistics and research because they publish the latest research and data. I like Psychology Today and Web MD because they have a treasure trove of articles from which which I can quote research and support my pitches.
If you can find and bookmark a few niche websites on health or fitness or whatever subject you’re interested in writing about, then you’ll never run out of timely ideas to pitch.
I hope these ideas help you to find your next winning feature idea. Tell me in the comments if they worked for you or what you use to find great story ideas.