Tom Whitwell knows a lot about headlines, since heâ€™s Assistant Editor, online, for The Times. This are notes from his talk at Social Media Camp ’08.
- If youâ€™re using Gmail, you should start thinking about SEO-ing your subjects, so youâ€™ll actually find something in 10-years time.
- For first hundred years of newspapers, they were really rubbish at selling stories
- 1967: Headlines finally get clever
- Internet: suddenly headlines start to go different
- Times internet: lots of data points to figure out what works
- The clearest example of â€œgood headlinesâ€ is the Drudge Report
- The difference of headlines is not 5% but 5x or even 20x
- What makes people click? Itâ€™s working out what the story is, what your reader will respond to, and how to squeeze all the goodness into 68 characters
Rules of thumb:
- Be specific
- The the whole story in the headline
- Donâ€™t try to be clever
- Donâ€™t try to be funny
- Play to your niche. Donâ€™t over simplify or patronize in the headline
- Lists = force you to do research and explain your points properly
- Quotes = Often the most interesting bit in the story
- Numbers = Often the most interesting bit in the story
- Names = Most likely who the story is about
- Donâ€™t worry about â€œbeing boringâ€
- Write the headline first. Really. Always.
- Great story which you canâ€™t explain in the headline = crap story
- Spend a lot of time on headline. Remember: 20x the traffic.
- Do you do split tests? Itâ€™s quite tricky in practice, so only in limited amount.
- Do you seed your stories on Digg? Not really.
- How much traffic do you get from Digg? Big Digg – over 100k visits. Fark sends you about 30k.
- How much traffic you get from Drudge report? It will send you about 50k visits.
- Do you automatically promote stories? No, not yet. We look at it manually and go to news desk as we see stories get picked up.
- Is there a difference between headline that you want someone to read vs. to respond to? We’re focusing for the purpose for this talk on how to get people to click.