How to Win Over New Kinds of Readers

making new friends

Ever notice that your content tends to really resonate with some people, and others don’t have any interest at all?

You might shrug your shoulders and just decide “that’s the way things are,” but in fact, educational psychology shows that there are four distinct ways of taking in information. Each of us naturally tends to speak most effectively to one type, leaving the other three out in the cold.

By getting a basic understanding of those four types, you can actually shape your content to connect with a greater range of people. You’ll radically increase your fan base, and also make a more powerful connection with the readers you have today.

Let’s dig into the four styles and how you can create content that resonates with each of them.

Cats

The biggest question for your Cat readers is, “what’s in it for me?” Their driving question is Why? This learning style is the most common, so you want to make sure your content is satisfying their needs.

Just like in when you were in eighth grade math class and were desperate for someone (Anyone? Anyone?) to explain what algebra was ever going to do for you, your Cat readers want to know:

  • Why do I care?
  • How does this make my life better?
  • Why am I spending my valuable time reading your blog?

Cat readers want to know just exactly where you keep your delicious cheeseburgers, please. If they don’t see the payoff, they won’t come back.

Dogs

These folks are the common-sense learners, who learn by doing and experimenting.

While you might not have exercises and worksheets in your blog content, you can have real-life stories and tangible examples that show how your topic works in the real world. Your Dog readers want you to show, not tell.

And by all means, if you have a “try this for yourself” exercise they can do, throw it into the mix. Dogs love cookies, and nothing makes better cookie content than practical, real-world tips. Taking your ideas from theory to practical application will make your Dog readers very happy.

Rats

Like clever lab rats running increasingly complex mazes, your Rat readers are analytical and smart. They’re interested in what the experts have to say, and if you can make yourself an authority in their eyes, they’re yours forever. Among all of your readers, they tend to be the ones who will read your whole post, instead of just skimming the headline and subheads.

Support your arguments with logic and facts, point to other smart discussions on your topic, and give them weighty material to think about. Rat readers want substantial content, not cheez-whiz fluff.

Monkeys

Monkey readers are the ones who make your content their own. They play with your ideas, riff on them, link and tweet back to you, and ask really interesting questions in the comments.

Your Monkey readers are some of the most supportive (and fun) readers in your audience, so take good care of them.

Don’t wrap every post idea up in a neat bow. Leave a few loose ends for readers to explore in comments or their own content. Express your point boldly, then invite other takes on the topic. Make your content a conversation, not a lecture.

And of course, get in touch with your own inner Monkey and riff on your fellow bloggers’ ideas. If there’s one thing Monkeys love, it’s other Monkeys.

We’re not just one type

No one’s all Cat, all Rat, or all Monkey. These are dominant ways of taking in information, but each of us has a bit of all four types.

You’ll want to create content that speaks to each style, because when you satisfy the complete range, you’ll be a much more effective teacher of information. A single post might have a benefit-rich headline that speaks to the Cat in your readers, offer a do-it-yourself tip that makes the Dog nod his head, provide some factual bullet points as evidence to keep the Rat happy, then launch into a lively comment thread that satisfies the Monkey.

I didn’t invent this model — it’s an adaptation of the work of renowned education designer Bernice McCarthy, who developed the 4MAT teaching system to better meet the needs of varied learning styles. (I’ve taken some pretty serious liberties with McCarthy’s theories, and beg her forgiveness.)

I have to thank Copyblogger’s own Brian Clark, who introduced me to the 4MAT concept as a lesson in Teaching Sells. The styles aren’t just useful for blog content, they can help you create truly superior online training programs, membership sites and information products that are head and shoulders above anything your competitors are creating.

Teaching Sells will be opening briefly to new students in the next couple of weeks, and we’ll be providing a wealth of free content starting this coming Monday, which in itself can be enough to build a powerful business around. Be sure to sign up here to receive all of the valuable material we’ll be handing out over the next week or so.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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Comments

  1. Interesting analysis of readers :) I’m not much cat, but a bit of everything else.

    My web magazine has a staff of 9.5 staff writers (9 humans + one “writer” whose articles will be ghostwritten by a number of different humans in order to provide a consistent brand to that article).

    I tried to build a heterogenous group, to avoid “groupthink” issues. We have writers from 3 different countries and a variety of backgrounds. Some are in their mid 20s, a few in our 30s, and a couple in their 40s.

    I allow each writer a lot of freedom with their styles, and I think that each writer appeals to a different mix of readers.

  2. Thanks, Sonia. I’d not heard of this 4MAT system before today. Do you think it’s best to appeal to all 4 types in each post, or write one post for each?

    Also, I’m surprised I haven’t seen more VIDEOS on CopyBlogger, since some people prefer to take in information through the eyes and ears. That’s another way of appealing to a different type of reader. (Wait, they wouldn’t be readers, then. Ah well, a different kind of audience.)

  3. Interesting concept. I can see my readers fitting in these through comments they leave. Valuable info I can definitely apply – thanks for sharing.

  4. Nice breakdown, Sonia!

    I think I’m a catmonkey. (:

  5. Sonia, as usual your content was useful, informative and a cracking good read. This content is particularly relevant to an ebook I’m currently writing, so the cat in me thanks you!

    Oh, and you’ve convinced me to sign up for the Teaching Sells waiting list to try and stake a place – this should be great :)

  6. Thanks for the eye-opening post.

    I find myself in the rat and dog camps, with some cat mixed in. I’m not much of a monkey at all. It’ll probably take a while before I can effectively tap into my inner monkey, but I’m certain I can attract more visitors to my site just by trying.

  7. @Pace, how scary would a real catmonkey be? (shiver)

    @Paul, I would say mix it up in a way that feels natural. Some posts, especially cornerstone content, will hit all four. Others will focus more on one or two styles. One neat thing about content is that it all works together, so different pieces can play different roles.

    And we’ve definitely been thinking along those lines as well, in terms of video and/or audio content. I particularly like to do multimedia content for more enduring content, like special reports, introductory videos, autoresponder add-ins, etc.

  8. Blog like a Veterinarian!

  9. Another brilliant piece by Sonia, I am officially a huge fan. This type of info is always useful. It reminds of the sales and leadership courses I’ve been through but this twist is of great value to me as a fledgling blogger (www.jonmikelbailey.com). I recommend you and CopyBlogger to all writers and bloggers I meet.

  10. Was the (Anyone? Anyone?) reference to the movie “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off”?

    I use that line all the time!

  11. @Jules, absolutely!

  12. Sonia, I’m so glad you monkeyed around with Bernice McCarthy’s stuff! You did show us as well as tell us, and this blog was superb. One of my favorites. Keep them coming, you CopyBloggers are always interesting, very informing, and imperfectly perfect.

  13. Really cool analysis Sonia.

    It is similar to the 4 types of people. I am familiar with the colour metaphore. Red, Blue, Green and Yellow.

    It is pretty much the same with the rats, dogs, cats and monkeys. :)

    Igor

  14. Interesting and complex approach to blogging.

    I tend to take the ‘be entertaining’ model, realizing that if I try to write for everyone, I’ll write for no one.

    These factors actually never really enter my mind. I just try to write in a manner that I’m impressed with. If I sincerely like my stuff, there’s probably other humanoids who will as well.

    Anyways, l love feeding my mind with various approaches to writing. Good stuff.

  15. Having dogs and cats I can completely relate to your post today. This is my new favorite Sonia Simone post! :)

  16. Sonia’s writing never misses.

  17. I hadn’t thought about grouping my readers into different types before. This is a really clever way of doing it. It looks as though my readers are mostly dog/monkey. Helpful to know all the types so I can mix it up a bit and attract different readers.

    Thanks Sonia – a great read.

  18. Many people and companies probably don’t think of their readers as different types. Knowing that there are cats, dogs, rats and monkeys all out there makes you more able to attract to all four.

  19. Wow, this is the first time I’ve heard of the 4MAT concept. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  20. I think I’m 50% cat, 40% dog, 8% rat and 2% monkey. I really want to be a monkey though!

  21. Hye, just know about the blog.
    Wow, what a great concept that I think it is vital to practice it because I do blogging but my problem is it’s hard for me to express or disgorge what I’m going to say.

  22. Sonia, that’s one of the best analogies I’ve seen. (I know that’s a bit OT from the post) We all know those animals and can relate to their personalities in our readers. I’m off to look up the 4MAT information and Teaching Sells.

    Back on topic, I think we all tend to stick with a style that we’re comfortable with. This is some great information to shake it up a bit and introduce some new angles.

    I’ve been wondering about how to increase readers, (heck, when are we all NOT trying to increase readers!) this gives me something to work on in the next week.

    Thanks!

  23. Knowing what persona your readers are will lead you to an appropriate and generally pleasing cotent that will satisfy the readers. Having something for everyone will make a blogger beneficial to a bigger audience. Thanks for categorizing the readers and their characters. I think I might be a combination of all of them. That’s possible right? Where do critics belong or are they included?ss

  24. I am stuck in Rat since I graduated from grad school and still doing “thesis speak.” I am practicing Dog and Cat, but thanks to you now I have to add Monkey, too.

    This was a brilliant analogy to use in expressing the various styles of reaching new audiences. Thanks, as always, for a great thought-provoking article!

  25. Thanks Sonia, this reminds me of my old timeshare sales days. I only tried my hand at it for a bit, but the sales training I received was some of the best. I know now that I should break out the old training and use it for my blog!

    I’d say I am a dog blogger, but I think I’ve been focusing too much on attracting the Rat reader. It’s cool to realize that I can switch it up and don’t have to focus on just one type.

    Can’t wait for the new session of Teaching Sells! Put my name on the waiting list today!

  26. This is great, I knew there was a reason I subscribed to this blog! (Some of us can only spend so much time thinking about headlines, you know?)

    Thanks Sonia, that really made my cogs whirr. I want to play with these concepts.

    In fact, here’s a free graphic for anyone else who feels like taking this and running with it: http://www.itchillustration.com/4animals/

    So, do these concepts also apply when you’re learning rather than teaching?

  27. Excellent reading, just found your blog via the Observers to 50 blogs.
    Please keep up the great job Sonia.

    Regards
    Mark

  28. Great, clear way to explain the four reading types – thanks so much, Sonia! I find things often “stick” in my mind more easily when I have an analogy to hook them too.

    Willie, that is an amazingly fab pic! Wow! I think Brian should use it for the article – I don’t see a rat or a monkey in that one… (plus yours is cuter and more colourful!)

  29. That’s a pretty great reasoning as well on why some people comment on some posts while others on different ones. It’s a personal prefernce I guess.

  30. @Melvin, and it actually goes beyond preference, different people are wired differently in terms of how we best process information. But again, we’re all a blend, so people who are primarily Dog learners will still need facts, and Monkey learners will benefit from understanding what’s in it for them.

    @Carole, I’m a Monkey-Rat mostly, though sometimes my Dog takes over and I just need to do it to figure it out.

    @Willie, love that image! Especially the happy blue monkey.

  31. Yes, just do it. I have finally taken the plunge and am learning as I go. I’ve even let the Dog, or the Cat, maybe the Monkey out to play sometimes. They just need to learn that they are welcome to play any time they want….

  32. Interesting metaphors you use here. Where’d you do your research? I need more monkey readers–they seem like fun! The problem I run into is that no one cares about my content–just kidding–but it’s few and far between. The real trick is producing stuff they are interested in continuously.

    Nice article!

  33. I knew I was brilliant to love your content. This post is more proof (as is the recommendation you got in the new Trust Agents book). Maybe Chris and Julien are as smart as me! Heh, heh.

  34. Ok so that makes me a cat then, I just have to know it’s worth my time

  35. A very interesting and helpful read for any blogger. I will have to try and remember to think about those different reader styles, next time I write a post.

    Thanks for the great info!

    Paul.

  36. That was really helpful, Sonia!

  37. Very thought-provoking post. I would definitely try to imply some of your valuable advise onto my next post :) Thanks Sonia!

  38. Interesting way to categories your readers.

    John Chow, Shoe Money or you people are Lion who set the trends and give reasons to us to think … and to come again to your blog.

  39. Obviously, I’ve never thought of my readers from this vantage point but it seems to make sense. Since folks tend to be a little of all four, mayhap my posts should be spiced with catnip, cheese, rawhide and bananas. I do believe I’ll give it a try…

    Thanks!

    George

  40. That’s an interesting concept. The concept isn’t relatively new and I’ve seen it somewhere but you used elucidated it in a easier to understand matter. It is funny because I tend to see this concept correlate with the typical blogger “create content that has value” and it is similar to it. This expands though with the rat and monkey added to it.

  41. Hi Sonia,
    I am new to blogging and am learning a lot so far, I am beginning to realise why some blogs are not so interesting as other posts. I did not realise this was built in each of us as it were. Very interesting!! I know you are all very busy, a pointer or two would be very much appreciated. Or even a comment.
    Thanks.
    Regards Steve.

  42. Very impressively written about readers. I agree to all of types of readers But one thing i want to share is that a writer can’t be a successful writer until he become a reader of its own itself.

  43. Interesting blog. I think i was one of those that had the idea that it’s way things are if people don’t read your work. It makes sense what you are saying and with that we can all learn something about our own writing. Thanks Sonia.

  44. The most important idea I took away from this that a blog’s role is to satisfy some need, some personality trait of its readers. As bloggers we can get tricked into thinking that satisfying our needs will equal the satisfaction of the reader.

    Not true! Thanks for these tips.

  45. Great post, thanks for such a fresh & catchy perspective on an old standby :) Really enjoyed the photo too!

  46. Knowing about the four types of readers is very important because it does not simply increase your knowledge about reading but it also gives you idea how to catch each kind’s attention. Thanks for the information.

  47. I have made a full fledge presentation on writer reader collaboration.. This article further increased my knowledge.

  48. Hi Sonia,

    Great information. Seems like the four reading styles are similar to the four basic personality type.

    You’ve got people who are most interested in power and money (cats). Then there’s the folks who are more family oriented (dogs). Next, the analytical one who can never have enough information (rats – btw that’s my personality and I really wish you could have come up with something else to represent it – lol). And then theres the party animals who just want to have fun (monkeys).

    Great idea to pattern your writing to the different types. I often think about it when I’m talking with folks, but it often slips my mind while writing. Thanks for the reminder.

    Steve DeVane

  49. Have you ever read the One-Minute Millionaire by Robert Allen? He describes how business model for 4 different types of people that each help get things done in order to produce results.

    Rabbit
    In charge of brainstorming great innovative ideas so fast that it can’t really focus on working because it’s mind is racing so much.

    Turtle
    The nay-sayer of the group that finds fault in every idea. This is important to spot before difficulties arise so you can plan solutions before-hand.

    Owl
    The wise strategic planner of the group that lays out the fundamental steps to completing a project in a logical way so each step flows into the next.

    Squirrel
    The go to person the runs errands and is always reliable to get things done when it is asked. This person executes most of the steps in the owl’s plan.

    Pete | The Tango Notebook

  50. I think I am a rat-dog, which is ironic seeing as I write for a pest control blog. I have heard of 4MAT before, but this explains it in a much clearer way. Loved the post Sonia!