Learn What a Feature Story Is

Find Out How It Differ From Hard News

couple reading newspaper in coffee shop
skynesher / Getty Images

Ask most people what a feature story is, and they'll say something soft and puffy, written for the arts or fashion section of a newspaper or website.

But in fact, features can be about any subject, from the fluffiest lifestyle piece to the toughest investigative report.

And features aren't just found in the back pages of the paper, the ones that focus on things like home decor and music reviews. In fact, features are found in every section of the paper, from news to business to sports.

In fact, if you go through a typical newspaper from front to back on any given day, chances are the majority of the stories will be written in a feature-oriented style. The same is true on most news websites.

So we know what features aren't; but what are they?

Feature stories aren't defined so much by subject matter as they are by the style in which they are written. In other words, anything written in a feature-oriented way is a feature story.

These are the characteristics that distinguish feature stories from hard news:

The Lede

A feature lede doesn't have to have the who, what, where, when and why in the very first paragraph, the way a hard-news lede does. Instead, a feature lede can use description or an anecdote to set up the story. And a feature lede can run for several paragraphs instead of just one.


Feature stories often employ a more leisurely pace than news stories. Features take time to tell a story, instead of rushing through it the way news stories often seem to do.


Taking more time to tell a story means using more space, which is why features are usually, though not always, longer than hard news articles.

A Focus on the Human Element

If news stories tend to focus on events, then features tend to focus more on people. Features are designed to bring the human element into the picture, which is why many editors call features "people stories."

So if a hard news story recounts how 1,000 people are being laid off from a local factory, a feature story might focus on just one of those workers, portraying their grief at losing their job.

Other Elements of Feature Articles

Feature articles also include more of the elements that are used in traditional storytelling — description, scene-setting, quotes and background information. Both fiction and non-fiction writers often say their aim is to have readers paint a visual portrait in their minds of what is happening in a story. That's also the goal of feature writing. A good feature writer does anything she can to get readers engaged with her story, whether by describing a place or a person, setting a scene or using colorful quotes.

An Example: The Man Who Played Violin in the Subway

To demonstrate what we're talking about, take a look at the first few paragraphs of this story by Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post about a world-class violinist who, as an experiment, played beautiful music in crowded subway stations. Note the expert use of the feature-oriented lede, the leisurely pace and length, and the focus on the human element.