Protected: Trending Topics Guidelines

Last Updated: 01/23/2024

Trending Topics are a somewhat special area of our Wealth of Geeks publishing empire. They are a mix of news articles, explainers, and listicles, blending breaking news with trending discussions on social media. They're designed to drive a lot of traffic to the site by promoting and increasing our presence on our MSN syndication.

These cover a wide variety of topics but are mainly focused on entertainment and lifestyle. They are meant to be written and read quickly – interesting snacks to munch on when you’re bored at work.

They're produced quickly, but still to Wealth of Geeks standards.

The bigger picture: We don’t want readers just to be reading our MSN articles but also interested in the broader Wealth of Geeks website and the rest of the cultural and financial reporting we’re doing. 

We also want you to write articles you’re excited about and that you’re excited to share.

Don't be afraid to include personality in your pieces! You can use “I” or “we” when talking about things.

Break the 4th wall — but try not to be mean. Let readers take cheap shots in the comments. Think playful snark in the vein of Jezebel, The Cut, Slate, and Vice — just without the political slant.

We’re sitting at the Inn at the crossroads between culture, entertainment, finance, food, and travel, overhearing what’s trending. It’s your job to take the conversations and turn them into blog post-style articles, telling the reader in your own words about what’s trending.

Trending Topics (TT) and Trending Content Agency(TCA) both follow more or less the same guidelines. There are minor differences for TCA work and Chantile will explain those to you, if you are selected or recommended to cross over.

Pay Rates as of Nov 1, 2023:   ¦ Bonuses:  
Trending Topics Article (300 – 500 words) $20 ¦ 20 completed in 1 month $300
Trending Topics 14 + Item Listicle (no images) $30 ¦ 100 completed in 1 month $500
Trending Topics 24 + Item Listicle (no images) $75 ¦ ** Cannot be combined with TCA work  
Images for Lists under 24 Items $15 ¦    
Images for Lists 24 + $30 ¦    

Writers do not have to supply images in their lists, but they can and will be given an addition $15 per list if the list is under 24 items and $30 for lists of 24 items or more.

General Info

For all articles and slide shows, you should follow the in-house writing guidelines (pass: EEATWRITE4U!)

  • This includes: 
    • Italicized titles of movies, TV shows, books, ships, and publications 
    • Song titles in quotes
    • Plus AP Style Guidelines
  • Censoring articles to meet MSN standards 
    • No profanity, not even in quotes or links. Please edit quotes/names to clean them up.
    • This includes changing anyone named “Dick” to Richard or referring to them by their last name only.
      • Yes, MSN’s censors are that sensitive.
      • These aren’t our rules, and we would really love it if we didn’t have to follow them.
      • Articles are rejected from being added to the MSN feed if they don’t pass the profanity check. You must have 0 profanity issues before submitting your assignment.

profanity filter

Three Strikes You’re Out

“Three Strikes” rule for writers moving forward. Writers who commit three infractions will be subject to termination.

These can include:

  • Repeated grammatical errors such as:
    • periods outside of quotation marks
    • using apostrophes instead of quotes
      (this one is easily avoided with GRAMMARLY, so use it!)
  • Repeated formatting errors such as:
    • Not formatting subheadings in H2 
    • not italicizing titles
    • extraneous coding or formatting resulting from pasting from another program
  • Repeatedly missing deadlines without consulting an editor for an extension
  • Not regularly contributing articles/account dormancy
  • Ignoring or otherwise not responding to messages from editors
  • Failure to meet WOG standards/style such as:
  • Factual errors/false claims in articles, including using incorrect names or titles
Plagiarism or use of AI is STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Anyone caught engaging in either will be immediately terminated.

Navigating the Assignment Sheet

Assignment sheet

  • Anything open to claim will be labeled ‘open work’ 
  • To claim, change the ‘Assignment Status’ from the dropdown menu to ‘Claimed/In Progress’
  • Pay attention to the “notes” section. This will have special instructions about the assignment. 
  • The Inspiration link is the jump-off point for your assignment. You should be building off of what we’ve provided and create your own take on the topic.  
  • If you’ve picked up your assignment in Slack (via pitch or priority call out): 
    • add the assignment to the appropriate category. 
  • Once completed, paste the WordPress link (submission instructions found below) in the WOG link column
    • Time Sensitive shortlists: due within 12 hours
    • Time Sensitive long lists: due within 48 hours
    • Assignment statusTime Sensitive articles: due within 12 hours
    • Evergreen lists: due within 2 weeks
  • Change the ‘Assignment Status’
    • For lists, change to “Ready for Images”
      • Everything goes to the image team before editing. Please change to “Ready for Images” after you’ve completed a list. 
    • For articles, change to “Ready for Editing”
    • For slide shows (lists + images), change to “Ready for Editing”
      • Note: These are assignments you have loaded the images for. They do not need to go to the image team.

The Writing Process

Remember: Writing is a process, a logical sequence of steps. The successful writer gathers, focuses, orders, drafts, and revises.

  • The first step in the process is gathering
    • Inspiration links are meant to be that: inspiration. Do not just spin or rephrase the inspiration article or press release, but find your own take.
  • Once you have the facts, decide on a focus or theme.
    • Each article should have one dominant idea. That is the focus or reason for writing the story. Without a focus, stories wander and confuse the reader. What's the point?
  • Imagine that you had to write a six-word headline for the story. What one sentence tells the meaning of the story?
  • Decide which of your facts are most important and place them in a logical order. Discard all facts that don't flow from your focus statement. Each point should grow from the previous point and lead to the next one. Poor organization loses more readers than anything else.&nb
    • Remember: For the reader, the easiest thing is to stop reading.
  • After you have written, edit your story to make it more powerful. Make sure that you have said what you intended to say.
  • Don’t use “Final Thoughts” or “In Conclusion” as a header or sentence starter. You’re not writing term papers or blog posts.
  • Read your story aloud. 
    • Reading aloud is a great way to test for clarity and pace. 
      • Are your sentences too long?
      • Is a paragraph confusing?
      • Is your work conversational or stilted?
  • Financial planners, bureaucrats, scientists, educators, engineers, and lawyers have their own jargon. Learn this jargon but translate it into standard English for your readers.
  • Check to make sure your sentences are not too long. Sentence length should vary, but the average should be below 20 words. Reader comprehension decreases as sentence length increases.
  • Check your writing for clutter.
    •  Is your work full of twisted phrases, jargon, redundancies, long words where short ones will do, unnecessary qualifiers and modifiers?
    •  Avoid backing into sentences with long dependent clauses, especially introductory ones. Get to it.
  • Are your sentences simple and strong? Write simple sentences where the subject is close to the verb. Rely on strong nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs.
  • Have you been concise? Prefer the short word to the long, the familiar to the fancy, the specific to the abstract.
  • Does everything conform to the basic conventions of grammar, spelling and punctuation? Don’t just rely on Grammarly – check it yourself. 
  • Read your article out loud. I cannot emphasize enough how much this will improve your writing.

How Do I Source, Anyway? 

  • Include source links throughout your articles and lists with the information being used. This can be done by: 
    • crediting the study, newspaper, or other primary source directly (i.e. The New York Times reported, <- you would link the NYT directly).
    • Linking to a word or phrase at the beginning of the section of your writing where you’re paraphrasing the source material.
  • Your sources should be primary documents whenever possible.
    • This may involve digging into where your inspiration link sources their information.
    • We encourage you to reach out to fellow WOG writers for expert quotes/opinions in the #expert-quote or appropriate team channel.
    • Avoid linking to competitors like ScreenRant, Collider, etc.
      • These places are usually linking to other sources. Pull your information from there. 
    • Examples:
      • Exclusive reporting
      • Interviews
      • Reviews from fellow WOG writers or websites (TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.) 
      • Studies
      • Press Release 
  • A good rule of thumb: If you had to look it up, link to it.
    • Information paraphrased must be cited.
    • Always link to the original reporting, even if it’s behind a paywall.
  • This does not include an IMDb list or other social media list where you are just getting ideas for what to include in your list.
  • Using a source more than once in an article? You only need to link to it the first time you cite them.
  • We are not allowing linking to/quoting from Reddit at this time.

Writing Resources

List Examples

Article Examples

Trending Topic News & Evergreen Articles

The Basics

    • Articles should be between 300 – 500 words, taking about 1 hour to write. Any extra effort is appreciated, but note you’re paid per article, not by word or hour. 
    • Time-sensitive news should be around 350 words, taking 1 hour max to write. If you feel you need more than 500 words, reach out to the lead editor on duty.
      • Weekdays: Nicole Tommasulo
      • Weeknights: Julia Fisher
      • Weekends: Ashlee Fechino
  • Claim only one time-sensitive assignment at a time. We want to get these out while the news is still relevant, so please turn in your claimed assignment before taking a new one.
  • Articles should be broken up into different sections using H2 headings
    • A good rule of thumb is to have 200 – 300 words max per section. 
  • Please link to at least two Wealth of Geeks articles inside your article.
    • The headlines/URL of the link you’re using should be as close to the word you’re using to anchor the link to as possible.
  • Run your article through Grammarly before you submit. 
    • You should have a score of at least 95%. 
  • Follow the in-house writing guidelines (password: EEATWRITE4U!)

News Article Structure

  • The most popular structure for news stories is the inverted pyramid.
  • In the inverted pyramid, the information is arranged in descending order of importance. The most important material is placed at the beginning of the story, and less important material follows. 
  • Succeeding paragraphs explain and support the lead. 
  • The inverted pyramid is popular because it still serves readers well. It tells them quickly what they want to know. It also serves to sharpen your news judgment and to identify and rank the most important elements of the story.

Tips and Tricks

  • Although you heard or read an interview or report in the past, we assume that this is the first time the reader is experiencing it. So you should use active and present tense verbs in most instances. “So and So, a doctor, says,” “A recent survey reveals,” or “shows” “Those surveyed report,”
  • Bookmark and use Try not to use the same word or phrase multiple times in one sentence. For example, “When buying presents, look for gifts with special significance. It will mean more.”
  • Don’t set up a quote by telling the reader the same thing the quote does. Either use a quote or don’t, but don’t repeat it. And you should always use a good quote if you have one.
  • Quotes set your articles apart from the usual blog posts. However, you CANNOT take a quote from someone else's article and use it in yours. For example, if Forbes interviews Bill Gates and he says something very interesting, you must ATTRIBUTE that quote to Forbes. i.e., Talking to Forbes' Paul Schoals, Gates said, “____”
    • You CANNOT just take the quote and put it in your article as if you talked to the person – not even if you link back to the article it came from.
    • “When asked about..” or “in regards to” is usually unnecessary – especially if the quote addresses the study they conducted or the thing you were JUST talking about. It’s pointless filler that insults the reader. Leave it out.
    • Only people can be quoted. Do not quote text from a report or study or someone else’s article. Paraphrase it in your own words. 
  • Don’t state the obvious, especially as the first sentence of your article.
  • Print out TT News Article Do's and Don'ts and post it by your computer to check every article prior to submitting. Remember, you will be responsible for everything you submit.
  • Check out Paul’s Tips + Tricks for writing AP articles and TT News Articles 


Trending Topic Lists

The Basics

  • If an assignment is a list, it will say “list” in the note section or have a headline like, “10 Terrible Tropical Disasters That Ruined Vacations” 
    • If you’re unsure whether an assignment is an article or list, please reach out to Nicole, Ashlee, or Sara.
  • Inspiration links are meant to be that: inspiration. Do not just spin the inspiration article, but find your own take, adding in information the original article didn’t give you. 
  • These are submitted in WordPress the same way you would an article, including a short intro before the first entry 
  •  Lists should be a minimum of 24, if possible, unless indicated otherwise. 
    • Entry titles/numbers should be H2s
    • We know not every topic or Reddit thread you’re using for inspiration will be able to be turned into a list this long! Just make them as long as possible.
  • Lists assignments don’t need to be numbered
    • They just need to be broken up into at least 24 H2’s 
    • If they are numbered, start with 1 and work in ascending order. 
  • Please link to at least two Wealth of Geeks articles inside your article.
    • The headlines/URL of the link you’re using should be as close to the word you’re using to anchor the link as possible.
  • Images for slide shows/listicles are generally sourced by the Image Team. Follow the directions in the next section (Trending Topics Slide Shows) for information on how to source your own slide images.
  • Non-time sensitive lists are due within two weeks of claiming the assignment.

Do’s + Don’ts 

  • Do assume that this is the first time the reader is experiencing the topic you’re covering, regardless how new you are to the subject. 
  • Do use active and present tense verbs in most instances. “So and So, a doctor, says,” “A recent survey reveals,” or “shows” “Those surveyed report,”
  • Do bookmark and use Try not to use the same word or phrase multiple times in one sentence. For example, “When buying presents, look for gifts with special significance. It will mean more.”
  • Do be positive. If your list is the worst Marvel movies, also mention how they could have been improved.
  • DO NOT start lists off talking about reporting on recent online forum discussions. We are not rounding up social media suggestions or reporting on what social media is saying. 
    • Think of the headline as a question or problem
    • Your introduction is adding context to the question or problem before you list your solutions
  • DO NOT use the phrases “In this list” or “Here are XX examples of [Headline]” language. Instead find a stronger, less blog-post way of transitioning to your first item list. Just because these are technically lists doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a flow from the introduction through the end of the list. 
  • DO NOT use competitors like Collider, MovieWeb, GoBankingPro, and other similar media companies as your source for information.

Trending Topics Slide Shows

The Basics

  • These are into WordPress the same way you would an article or list, including a short intro before you add your first slide. 
  • Adding slides: 
    • Create a H2 header
    • Place your slide picture (1280 x 720) immediately following underneath the slide title. 
      • Image sourcing directions can be found in a section below.
  • Please link to at least two Wealth of Geeks articles inside your article
    • The headlines/URL of the link you’re using should be as close to the word you’re using to anchor the link to as possible. 
      • These are the links that are in green in the examples below. 
  • If invoicing for a TT slide show, you should have a minimum of 24slides
    • Note: If you have a list of 7 things but still have 14 slides, this counts as 14 
  • Any slide shows with 50 slides can be billed as 2 slide shows.

Image Sourcing 

We use IMDb and Shutterstock for our articles, listicles, and slideshows. So, no Getty, Instagram, or free image sites like Pexels, Pixabay, or Unsplash.

While there are photos in our Media Library that you can use, but please verify the size! Some will be smaller than 1280 x 720 or not meet 16:9 ratio requirements. Do not use these.

Note: We are working on clearing these out of the library and appreciate your patience and attention to detail in the meantime!

Picking a Featured Image

  • Use horizontal photo for feature photo set to 1280 x 720.
  • Feature images for every article and slide show must be brand new to the site. This means you will be uploading a photo from Shutterstock or IMDb for the feature image of every article. 
  • Do not use an image already in the slide show for the feature image. 
  • Do not use stock images. Use a still from the movie or television show, etc, being discussed in the piece. 
    • For non-entertainment articles and slide shows: Feature photos don’t have to depict something exactly from the article. You can capture a mood or detail that summarizes the article and capture people’s attention. 
    • MSN will fail any article with a lead image that’s provocative or violent. No guns, cigarettes, bikinis, cleavage, etc. You'll also want to avoid too much skin showing and/or lots of red in the image.
    • If you have a list of movies, TV shows, etc., please use film stills instead of using red carpet stock photos.

Picking Slide Show Images

Images are generally handled by the image team, though there is additional pay for writers who do their own imaging (see ‘General Info’ for rates). If you choose to, these are the steps you’d follow: 

  • Use horizontal photo and set to 1280 x 720.
    • Photos inside the slideshow should be of what the list is about. If you’re listing 10 movies, the 10 slide photos should be of those movies you listed. 
      • Don’t use stock photos for entertainment slide shows, such as people watching TV. Choose either an image from your slide show or a different scene/still from one of the movies/shows/etc in your slide show. 
      • Don’t use promotional posters for slide images. 
      • Do not use the same image used for the feature image. 
    • Can be added to the article using the “add media” button:92955


  • Can be used for movie/TV articles, lists, and slide shows. 
  • We cannot use any photo from Getty Images, however. Avoid images with Getty images as the credit on IMDb.
  • You will need to take screenshots to save photos or use the Image Downloader extension if you’re using Google Chrome.
  • If the image is too small to fit a 16:9 ratio, you need to resize the image. 
    • Most use Canva and enlarge the photo to meet the full canvas.
    • All images must be saved and uploaded to the library as JPEGs.
      • MSN does not accept PNG as a suitable image format. 
  • Credit needs to be given to the studio or network that produced the show/movie.
    • If information isn’t already on the photo, Google: “[movie title] movie distributor” to find this information 
    • IMDb should never be listed as your source.


  • You will need to be emailed an invitation to join our Shutterstock account. 
    • Message Nicole if you haven’t been sent an invitation.
    • Note: You will already need a Shutterstock account. Create this before following the link in the invite we send you. The invitation is for your account to join our team’s account rather than having all of WoG trying to log into one account.
  • Photos from Shutterstock will be too large and can be resized/cropped down before downloading. 
  • We have a limited amount of credits each month. Please reuse images from the Media Library whenever possible.

Adding to Media Library

  • You must add a description to the photos you’re adding to our media library! Even if it’s just the movie title or the emotion in the picture. This helps give us the ability to reuse photos (and find them!).15820
  • When adding a photo to WordPress, no matter if it’s a feature or a slide, the caption must read:
    • Image Credit: Source.
    • If using Shutterstock – Image Credit: Photographer/Shutterstock.
    • If using IMDb – Image Credit: Network or Studio (ie Netflix, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox).
      • If you cannot find the network or studio on IMDb, you will need to search “[movie title] distributor.”
      • If there is a specific photographer listed on the IMDb image, they should be credited too.
      • IMDb should not be listed as your source.
  • Yes, you need to include the period in the caption for sourcing information to format properly on MSN.


  • If you’re looking for an easy checklist to follow when submitting, click here
    • Password: EEATWRITE4U!
  • Run through Grammarly before you submit to fix typos, grammar, etc. 
    • You should be scoring 95%.
  • Clear all formatting. You may have to re-format movie or television show titles.IMG 7357
  • Save in WordPress as a draft once completed. 
    • No Access? Message Nicole on Slack.
  • Please use classic editor, NOT block editor, when adding articles to WordPress. This impacts formatting after publishing.
  • Check only the “Trending Topics” category under “Categories.”IMG 7358
  • Under any trending topic news article/explainer/reaction post only, the following needs to be filled in:
    IMG 7359
  • Also, link to TWO similar articles that would drive more readers to WoG (aka up next links) in “More Articles From” (see picture above).
  • Add your article url to the Trending Topics Article Tracking spreadsheet on the assignments tab in the “WOG Link” column, located next to the inspiration link column. Your article will be found under the “Works in Progress” header.IMG 7360