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EDITOR’S NOTE

Readers notice when we’re low on content. Readership dropped from a weekend average of 20k per day, to just a few more than 10k Tuesday. (Not to worry. That’s been our average.) Still it’s nice to draw in as many readers as we can.

One way to do that, of course, is great headlines. I don’t ever want to see us write headlines that are “click bait.” Well, at least there should be a payoff for the reader so they don’t feel cheated after reading. Wired made this point: “Here’s what most people can agree on: Clickbait is annoying, but by god, it works—even when readers recognize it for what it is. The word's substantial semantic drift may be behind some of this effectiveness. But a hefty helping of behavioral science is at play, too. As a number of new studies confirm, you can blame your clickbait habit on two things: the outsized role emotion plays in your intuitive judgements and daily choices, and your lazy brain.” There are a few clickbait tools ranging from words that elicit an emotional response to numbers. (Numbers stand out when we're scrolling through an endless stream of headlines—particularly odd numbers.)

Three points to consider. First use the whole name in a headline. (I know this isn’t the way it’s taught in J-school.) So Donald Trump. Jonathan Nez. Tara Sweeney. Why? Search engines. We live in that world so we gotta play by their rules.

Second. Have fun and be clever. As a rule my favorite headlines come from The Economist: “Headings and captions set the tone: they are more read than anything else, especially in a newspaper. Use them, therefore, to draw readers in, not to repel them. That means wit (where appropriate), not bad puns; sharpness (ditto), not familiarity (call people by their last names, not their first names); originality, not clichés.”

Daily note image 5.27.20

Third. Encourage curiosity. Tease. Let the reveal come in the story (or even the deck) rather than the headline.

Think of the deck as the story summary; the main head is the invitation.

One other tool to have saved: The shorter Thesaurus. It gives shorter options to replace words that are too long. http://www.ironicsans.com/thsrs/


More from Poynter. (VERBS, yes!) https://www.poynter.org/educators-students/2017/9-tips-for-writing-stronger-headlines/