What The Bachelor Can Teach You About Hooking an Audience

image of Ben from the show The Bachelor

Have you noticed how indifferent you are to most things you read? You may start reading but stop a few sentences in. You might only skim sections. You might not even make it past the headline.

Given the way people consume content, it can be tough to truly capture your readers’ attention.

If you want to know how to capture and keep attention, you need to study who’s already doing it incredibly well. And the answer to what makes people return to your content can be learned from one of the longest-running reality TV shows: The Bachelor.

Of course, we realize your content marketing is much smarter and classier than The Bachelor. Maybe you didn’t join the millions of people who watched the season finale last night.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two.

Say what you will about this train wreck of a show, but it’s held an engaged audience for 16 seasons of over-the-top drama.

Examining this series closely over the years, I’ve picked up on what keeps its viewers so captivated. Read on to find out how you can use the five most alluring elements of The Bachelor to keep readers coming back …

1. Lead with the end

While the journey sure is entertaining, The Bachelor is all about the ending.

People keep watching the show to see how it ends, when the bachelor proposes to his future ex-fiancée atop a mountain or equally outrageous location.

Additionally, every episode ends with the ritual of the bachelor sending home one or more women in a melodramatic rose ceremony.

The ending is drilled into viewers’ minds during every episode: the contestants discuss it, every pre-show recap touches on it, and the previews for each episode reminds us that Yes, this is all leading up to something big.

What is the pay off for reading your entire post? Are readers rewarded for making it to the end?

Consider crafting the ending of a post first. This will help guide the beginning and middle toward the well-conceived conclusion.

Keep the format of your posts consistent, but make the ending better than anticipated.

To do this, state where the post is going in the beginning, then overdeliver on the promised ending. If you say your post will teach 10 ways to do something, sneak in an extra tip or two.

Take away: Make the purpose of your posts clear right away and follow through with a worthwhile ending.

2. Don’t make them think too hard

The Bachelor is, arguably, one of the least intellectual shows on television. Which is probably why people love it so much.

No, we’re not asking you to write stupid content. But when they’re reading your blog posts, readers shouldn’t feel like they’re working their way through a molecular biology text. (Unless, of course, you’re publishing content about molecular biology.)

Consuming your content shouldn’t feel like work. Keep it light, entertaining, and above all, make the value obvious.

Here are some tips for making posts clearer:

  • Can you simplify your language? Switch out big words when a smaller word will suffice.
  • Do you want readers to do something? Tell them exactly what that is with a call to action.
  • Are you leaving too many questions unanswered? When necessary, supplement with links to additional resources and use visuals to aid your text.

Take Away: Don’t be coy. Spell things out for your readers.

3. Develop your character

The Bachelor casts the same characters season after season, including The Naive One, The Villain (there are usually several of these, actually), The Desperate One, and The One Who Drinks Too Much The First Night.

Why do archetypes work? They’re familiar.

If every contestant on The Bachelor had a hard-to-define personality, it would be too difficult for viewers to remember who’s who (see #2, above).

The best writers have such a defined voice, their writing can be identified even without their name attached.

Become familiar to your readers. Develop your character by giving a consistent portrayal of your personality.

Establish your voice and use it in all of your posts. Be as narrow as possible in defining your tone: “funny” isn’t enough. What type of humor do you use: self-deprecating, snarky, corny, puns?

Take away: Don’t just write what you know — write who you are. Your readers will feel like they know you and appreciate your authenticity.

4. Edit to your advantage

No one would watch The Bachelor if they showed hours of the women blow-drying their hair and sitting on the couch waiting for their dates.

The show’s editors select the best footage, then splice it together to tell a compelling story.

Editing is more than fixing typos and grammar. The best writers stay emotionally distant from their writing and edit mercilessly.

Here are steps to take when editing a piece:

  • Remove redundancies.
  • Experiment with moving around sentences and paragraphs.
  • Don’t be a Fancy Nancy. No matter how vast your vocabulary is, limit flowery language.
  • Get rid of your first sentence.
  • Better yet, get rid of your first paragraph.

If you struggle to remain objective about your writing, have someone else edit for you. It also helps to put a piece aside and come back to edit it later, instead of writing and editing all in one sitting.

Take away: Leave the mundane scraps of your writing on the cutting room floor.

5. Tease the audience

The commercials and teasers for The Bachelor are often much better than the actual episodes. How can anyone pass up anything billed as the “most dramatic____ ever”?

Are you writing a series post? Tell readers what they can expect in the next installment.

Have a great post in the works? Leave compelling “commercials” for your audience at the end of your posts, on your social networks, and in your email newsletters.

See what I did there?

Take Away: Close your posts with cliffhangers and use your other platforms to build anticipation around future posts.

Make it work for you

While I would never encourage you to write anything as mindless as The Bachelor, the techniques above can make readers not only return, but anxiously await your next post.

The Bachelor’s secret for attracting and keeping an audience comes down to this: being predictably unpredictable. Pairing the familiar with the unexpected will leave readers with no choice but to see what happens next.

Are you using any of the above techniques to lure readers? Better yet, what do you think makes trashy reality TV so compelling?

Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: Kerry Jones works in online marketing at BlueGlass, where she also manages the blog. Yes, she’s really watched every season of The Bachelor. Follow her on Twitter here.

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Reader Comments (63)

  1. says

    I’m right there with you on point number 2. You don’t want to dumb it down for your audience, but you need to make it easy to digest. The potential for distraction is so great online, so you have to keep your reader engaged and interested the whole way through. If reading your content becomes akin to understanding an SAT language question you’ve lost them.

    • says

      For sure, Nick :) I always go back and take out “SAT words,” but I think a part of me will forever be trying to impress my 8th grade English teacher.

  2. says

    Great post! I think for a lot of us we’re told from an early age that using big words shows you’re intelligent. Unfortunately, most people out there are reading and comprehending at a 4/5 grade level, which is exactly why we should aim to communicate at that level. President Clinton wrote his speeches geared toward that audience and look at how enchanting his speaking was.

    • says

      Absolutely agree, Ayesha :) I think using big words is tough to “unlearn” as an adult (it’s something I still edit for all the time).

  3. says

    I understand how you can relate awesome TV shows to just about anything. But here you actually used ‘The Bachelor’. Oh wow. Nice job, and really well written too.

  4. says

    Bachelor is the worst show on television. But if they blogosphere can learn something from it then I suppose it’s okay. But I’m still not watching The Bachelor.

  5. says

    Brilliant! I was right there with millions of other viewers, knowing he had fallen for The Villain, but wishing he would see the error of his ways before the final moment. The editing of reality shows tends to be tight, so that we get the juiciest drama slices. One of my personal favorites is the use of indigenous animals on “Survivor.”

    • says

      Thanks for the comment, Lisa :) When you think of how much footage reality TV shows have compared to a normal scripted TV show, it’s pretty impressive how they end up packaging it to be so compelling.

  6. says

    I love this. First of all, I love having the reasons that I dig watching The Bachelor (this is really a coming out for me – possibly a career fail by the sound of comments) spelled out for me and all the world to see. I don’t love the Bachelor because it contributes intellectual stimulation to my life. I get plenty of that elsewhere. I love it because – with some fancy writing/producing and editing moves, as you spell out – it allows me to see into the wild workings of human psychology (for one subset of the human population, to whatever degree it is “real” I don’t really care) under intense and totally strange circumstances. I find it totally fascinating. Sort of like a science project. Your breakdown of why it’s so captivating is awesome. I feel a little redeemed for watching, frankly. (She ducks from the thrown tomatoes.)

    • says

      Michelle, you’re not alone! I 100% stand by my unwavering love of The Bachelor.

      I enjoy an embarrassing amount of reality TV (judge away, everyone!), but The Bachelor keeps the strongest hold on my attention by a long shot. I always thought I just enjoyed making fun of it, but as you’ve pointed out, the producers have created a fascinating experiment.

  7. says

    Thanks Kerry – I agree so much on using simple words and not making it hard for the reader. I didn’t even realise how many flowery words I used till I got a plugin for WordPress that suggests simpler words. It definitely made a difference to my Flesch Reading score, and hopefully the user experience. Very easy step that I would recommend to anyone using the WorPress platform! Thanks Again :)

  8. says

    Hi Kerry,
    I don’t watch TV and have never seen more than a few minutes at a time of “The Bachelor” but your post drew me in and kept me interested till the end. Good job, great stuff for me to keep in mind… be a little unexpected and use cliffhangers.

  9. says

    When I read this the first time, I was thinking why do you want to call it The Bachelor. Then I realised its a TV show. This is a great post to summarize the way to capture readers.

  10. says

    This post has some good ideas but they aren’t developed well enough to be useful. Lead with the end sounds great and makes sense, but how about some writing examples? I’ve never watched the bachelor and don’t plan to, and I don’t think it makes sense to assume everyone in this audience watches the bachelor. I for one am too busy writing. More details about how to lead with the end would be much appreciated.

  11. says

    I really like your fifth point about “tease the audience”. Because in reality writing a great post isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning. That is a great tweet that you used in your example. Kerry, you’re a real tease :) and I do mean that in a nice way!

  12. says

    Great post there Kerry, and I think NO apology should be made for watching a limited(!) amount of reality TV – and here’s why. Whilst as writers we might sometimes like to think of ourselves as intellectually superior to the typical reality TV audience – the chances are that our ideal customers could well be avid viewers. Reality TV – whether we love it or hate it, is a huge part of modern culture, so we DO need to be aware of it if we want to be part of the modern chit chat of life. The marketers and copywriters who excel are the ones who can reference what’s happening in people’s day to day lives. If a friendly comment about a popular TV show helps your audience feel connected to you then that can only be a good thing! I love The Apprentice (in the UK where I am), and I have to say that the occasional ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ is my guilty pleasure !! There – my secret’s out!
    Cheers -great fun and food for thought in your post

    • says

      Very good point, Tanya. Eugene Schwartz (one of the great direct copywriters ever) used to make a point of watching all of the biggest blockbuster movies (even when they were frankly sort of stupid) so he could soak up what the mass market was watching, thinking about, how they were framing stories, what language was working, etc.

    • says

      Great comment, Tanya! I think incorporating pop culture into content not only attracts the masses, but also helps people retain information.

      And I’m really enjoying how many people are debunking that reality TV is a waste if time :)

  13. says

    I am glad that you definitely took the educational approach with a show like Bachelor! I am definitely going to look over this again a few times to catch everything!

  14. says

    Its amazing where you can find inspiration. The other day I was playing soccer and learned a valuable blogging lesson during my game. That’s when I knew I was hooked and this blogging bug was not going anywhere!

  15. says

    I actually have a friend who worked on the show as well as an ex-roommate who was on the show (Bachelor Paris season). For the roommate who was on the show and who had filmed an entire season, I didn’t even know about her being on the show until the day it aired, due to confidentiality clauses! I therefore think that another key aspect of their success has been to keep a lid on the content until they’re ready to annouce such “cliff-hanging” information on their own terms. They are great at keeping the audience building their suspicisions and at developing an urge to know more.

    • says

      The way they keep everything under wraps definitely helps fuel the promotional fire. I can’t remember the last time I was at the grocery store and there wasn’t a tabloid claiming to have inside info about The Bachelor.

  16. says

    I like the part #5 Tease the audience and will definitely give it a try. What about not telling or not revealing all in the post? Like something is missing and will foster the reader to come back (for more) or comment. This is an idea I’ve read but not sure if make sense. Anyway great article Kerry.

  17. says

    Haha, my website is about deep thinking, so I laughed at #2.

    That said, you brought up some clever points. I’ll be thinking about “starting with the end.” It’s always good to hear the truth about how good writers edit ruthlessly. I just read Copyblogger’s post on Hemingway and he was quoted as saying ““I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit.” That’s an extreme ratio, but imagine how amazing that one page would have to be.

    The Bachelor is everything that’s wrong with people today. My family watches it and I am obligated to make fun of them for it.

    • says

      Heh :)

      The Hemingway post is one of my all-time Copyblogger favorites. For this post, I cut my first draft in half… not quite as extreme but I usually cut out around half of what I start with. I end up repeating myself a lot, so this may not apply for most people…

      And thanks for not making fun of me!

  18. says

    Awesome post! Great thoughts on how to apply television show concepts to blog posts. I think people like trashy tv for the same reason they like fairy tales. Folks like to see archetype characters put together in different settings and with different conflicts. :)

  19. says

    Hi Kerry,
    Thanks so much for your article-it’s fabulous!! I am just starting to blog and my big goal is to learn to be entertaining and fun while sharing important info., so this is really timely.

  20. says

    Hi again Kerry!
    Forgot to say that I just love reality shows myself- Tabitha’s Salon Takeover, Love broker, Bethany Ever After, Heidi Klum’s show (name escapes me at the moment). Super interesting, and you can learn a ton from them. I used to feel guilty about watching them, but I do much prefer them to just about any other show.

    • says

      Thanks for the comments, Marian :)

      Good luck with your dive into blogging! There’s so much to learn but plenty of good resources out there. Be sure to check out some of the popular articles on here for great inspiration and guidance (I refer back to many of these time and time again).

  21. says

    Wow Kerry!

    You did it! Really! You are an inspirational genius. Believe it or not The Bachelor turned educational. It’s converting the soapiest of soaps from the guttermost to the uttermost through a double-distillation process!

    Thanks for giving me a whack.

  22. says

    You are clever and your explanation on how to write content that appeals to our audience is excellent. Keeping our readers coming back is essential and your advise make a lot of sense. Thank you for taking the time to guide us.

  23. says

    No matter what we bloggers think about ‘The Bachelor’ its audience definitely sees something in it that others don’t. IMO, this show knows its audience very well and that is what has contributed to its sucess. Bloggers can take away this lesson from this show.

  24. says

    Love the article, Kerry. I don’t know why people don’t like the Bachelor, it’s got backstabbing, fakeness which makes you upset, hot chicks (and guys for the women), stupidity, etc…

    I suppose if I could add something to the article it would be to not take too long to get somewhere. But that’s basically what you’re implying in #4 with the editing.

    Great job. And thinking backwards works very well in business, too.

  25. says

    I have to admit that I’ve been sucked into watching the Bachelor and feel ill after I do. Like my brain needs to be cleansed. But sure enough I go back the next week for like you say “to see the end” and “have a look at the villans”. I agree that I don’t think to hard, and I guess that is part of the allure. It’s like an hour of brain rest BUT the problem is that it feeds the worst part of your personality. It’s gossipy, you are none the smarter (in fact, probably dumber), and you’re supporting this terrible medium.
    I think that there has to be a middle ground in giving people what they want with still staying true to proper English, values and quality content. I guess we could take from the Bachelor these points, but it seems like such a poor example of success and we who watch it, are worse off. Thanks for the post and the ideas, but I hope that the blogs I read take their cues from better examples of successful media other than the Bachelor.

  26. says

    Thanks for the great post Kerry. I specifically like your idea of a teaser tweet. I also realize that I need to edit more and create better endings, but teasing the audience is gold. Thanks again

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