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Tom Whitwell Assistant Editor, Online The Times + MusicThing.co.uk for your music gear geek needs How to write awesome hea...
The first ever headline in The Times (January 1 st , 1785)
They were rubbish at selling stories
Headlines smaller   than body copy. Sure about that?
Really big stories got proper headlines
Rubbish at SEO:  No mention of  Jack the Ripper
1929: Real headlines
1945: Front page is only small ads…
… even when there’s a  really  big story
1966: Far out! Headlines on the front
1967: Headlines get ‘clever’. The decline into decadence begins.
1983: Weak puns ahoy!
Magazine headlines: What?  What does that even mean? Oh. OK.
2000: Yes, yes, very clever.
Then, suddenly, the internet.
1. Headlines were separated from stories
2. We found out what was really working
Headlines is serious business.
<ul><li>Newspapers don’t know who’s reading which articles. </li></ul><ul><li>On the web, we know. </li></ul><ul><li>The d...
Yeah, but, it’s only the headline.
Yeah, but, it’s only the headline.
<ul><li>It’s not easy.  Britney Spears nude having sex on Viagra while playing Runescape  will not ‘get loads of clicks’  ...
<ul><li>Be specific. Why  exactly  should I read your story, not that other one? </li></ul><ul><li>Tell the whole story in...
<ul><li>Quick wins:  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lists = force you to do research and explain your points properly </li></ul></u...
<ul><li>Don’t worry about ‘being boring’.  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If your story is boring, no amount of headline jazz will ...
<ul><li>Work at it. Spend 20 minutes on the headline. Do research to get the words right. Don’t publish until you’ve got a...
<ul><li>You’re not actually writing the headline.  </li></ul><ul><li>You’re finding out what your story is really about.  ...
I’m done. Sorry for ranting.
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How To Write Awesome Headlines

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A session from BarCampLondon5 and SMCLondon08 about the history of headlines, and how to write headlines that people will want to click.

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Transcript of "How To Write Awesome Headlines"

  1. 1. Tom Whitwell Assistant Editor, Online The Times + MusicThing.co.uk for your music gear geek needs How to write awesome headlines. (So people read your stuff)
  2. 2. The first ever headline in The Times (January 1 st , 1785)
  3. 3. They were rubbish at selling stories
  4. 4. Headlines smaller than body copy. Sure about that?
  5. 5. Really big stories got proper headlines
  6. 6. Rubbish at SEO: No mention of Jack the Ripper
  7. 7. 1929: Real headlines
  8. 8. 1945: Front page is only small ads…
  9. 9. … even when there’s a really big story
  10. 10. 1966: Far out! Headlines on the front
  11. 11. 1967: Headlines get ‘clever’. The decline into decadence begins.
  12. 12. 1983: Weak puns ahoy!
  13. 13. Magazine headlines: What? What does that even mean? Oh. OK.
  14. 14. 2000: Yes, yes, very clever.
  15. 15. Then, suddenly, the internet.
  16. 16. 1. Headlines were separated from stories
  17. 17. 2. We found out what was really working
  18. 18. Headlines is serious business.
  19. 19. <ul><li>Newspapers don’t know who’s reading which articles. </li></ul><ul><li>On the web, we know. </li></ul><ul><li>The difference between a good headline and a weak headline isn’t 5% or 10%, it’s 10x, 20x or more. </li></ul>Yeah, but, it’s only the headline.
  20. 20. Yeah, but, it’s only the headline.
  21. 21. Yeah, but, it’s only the headline.
  22. 22. <ul><li>It’s not easy. Britney Spears nude having sex on Viagra while playing Runescape will not ‘get loads of clicks’ </li></ul><ul><li>It’s subtle </li></ul><ul><li>It’s working out what the story is, what your reader will respond to, and how to squeeze all the goodness into 68 characters </li></ul>What makes people click?
  23. 23. <ul><li>Be specific. Why exactly should I read your story, not that other one? </li></ul><ul><li>Tell the whole story in the headline </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t try to be clever </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t try to be funny </li></ul><ul><li>Play to your niche. Don’t over simplify or patronise in the headline. </li></ul>What makes people click?
  24. 24. <ul><li>Quick wins: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lists = force you to do research and explain your points properly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quotes = Often the most interesting bit in the story </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Numbers = Often the most interesting bit in the story </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Names = Most likely who the story is about </li></ul></ul>What makes people click?
  25. 25. <ul><li>Don’t worry about ‘being boring’. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If your story is boring, no amount of headline jazz will help. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If your story is interesting, tell it in the headline. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Write the headline first. Really. Always. </li></ul><ul><li>Great story which you can’t explain in the headline = crap story </li></ul>What makes people click?
  26. 26. <ul><li>Work at it. Spend 20 minutes on the headline. Do research to get the words right. Don’t publish until you’ve got a killer headline. Remember: 20x more traffic! </li></ul><ul><li>If you get stuck, tell someone the story. The way they react will tell you what should be in the headline. </li></ul>What makes people click?
  27. 27. <ul><li>You’re not actually writing the headline. </li></ul><ul><li>You’re finding out what your story is really about. </li></ul>What makes people click?
  28. 28. I’m done. Sorry for ranting.
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