The Elements of a Good Headline

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The Elements of a Good Headline

  1. 1. The Elements ofa Good Headline January 2013
  2. 2. First, let’s talk about today’s digital user 2
  3. 3. First, let’s talk about today’s digital user• The digital user wants to discover and share things that are interesting and relevant.• The digital user wants to be told what to click, watch, read, learn about, share and understand.• The digital user is impatient and fast-moving.• The digital user wants to be surprised.• The digital user gets a lot of content through social.• The digital user is guided by headlines. 3
  4. 4. Headlines are really really really important• The headline is the universal representation of your story.• The headline will be copied and pasted, e-mailed, tweeted, shared on Facebook and read aloud.• If the headline’s good, your story has the potential to get in front of a lot of people.• If it’s bad, not so much. 4
  5. 5. Think about your headline FIRST• Whenever possible, come up with your headline before you create your web content.• Creating a strong, authoritative headline up front can improve reporting and writing.• If you come up with an awesome headline first, you will create an awesome web story.• When you go to news meetings, talk about the stories you’re working on in terms of what the web headline will be. 5
  6. 6. Think about your headline FIRST Instead of: “I’m working on a story about the city’s speed camera problems.” Try:“I’m working on a story about the city’s new speed cameras. I’m thinking the web headline could be: “’Here’s why Boston’s new speed cameras are broken’” 6
  7. 7. Make it promise something• What’s the content you’re delivering to the audience?• If you promise people the most interesting thing you have, they should be compelled to read it.• Be specific. Don’t be vague. 7
  8. 8. How a Couple Responds to Aurora Shooting 8
  9. 9. How a Couple Responds to Aurora Shooting 9
  10. 10. Make it promise something Kansas: Then and Now 10
  11. 11. Make it promise something The New York Times: Gawker: 11
  12. 12. Make it promise something Blog: The Atlantic: Source: faithistorment.com 12
  13. 13. Make it promise something Blogger: The Atlantic: Source: faithistorment.com 13
  14. 14. Give it the explainer test “When remotely possible turn news into explanation.” --Nick Denton• Rather than simply phrasing your headline as “This happened…” consider: “How this happened…” “What this means for…” “Everything you need to know about…” “Why this happened…” 14
  15. 15. Give it the explainer test How a $190M Project Will Bring Thousands of Jobs to Kansas City 15
  16. 16. Give it the explainer testBob Dylan record only released inEurope 16
  17. 17. Make it digestible• Don’t try to be too clever. Avoid puns!• The headline should focus on one thing (the most important and interesting thing) and nothing more.• It should be easy to understand at a glance. Try to avoid these things 17
  18. 18. Make it digestible• Don’t try to be too clever. Avoid puns!• The headline should focus on one thing (the most important and interesting thing) and nothing more.• It should be easy to understand at a glance. Try to avoid these things 18
  19. 19. Talk to the web audience• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the web audience, using “you” in a headline.• Or to direct the audience: “Watch this…” “Here’s the…” “Look at this…” “This is why you…” 19
  20. 20. Talk to the web audience• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the web audience, using “you” in a headline.• Or to direct the audience: “Watch this…” “Here’s the…” “Look at this…” “This is why you…” 20
  21. 21. Talk to the web audience• Don’t be afraid to talk directly to the web audience, using “you” in a headline.• Or to direct the audience: “Watch this…” “Here’s the…” “Look at this…” “This is why you…” 21
  22. 22. Open up a blank document• This document will serve as your area to brainstorm around your headline. 22
  23. 23. Identify the hook• Ask yourself this: What is the most interesting and important fact or element of the story?• Your headline will eventually come from that answer.• Remember: If you promise people the most interesting thing you have, they should be compelled to read it. 23
  24. 24. Write, write, write, write, write• Write 10-25 different headlines.• Your first, second, third, fourth or fifth … might not be the best.• Challenge yourself to come up with the best.• Say your headlines out loud.• Make it tweetable. 24
  25. 25. Ask yourself some questions• If you saw this headline on Facebook and Twitter, would you feel compelled to click and share it?• Does your headline promise something specific, important and interesting?• Is your headline easily digestible?• Does your headline speak directly to the digital user?• Is your headline accurate? 25
  26. 26. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate• Work with someone else on every headline you write.• Try to build it into your workflow for posting to the web.• Create an online environment where staff can share ideas.• Don’t be afraid to change your headline after it’s published. 26
  27. 27. Let’s Make A HeadlineWhy can’t this Florida man wreck his $7.6 millionmansion? 27
  28. 28. Let’s Make A Headline 28
  29. 29. Let’s Make A HeadlineDo you think UC’s new logo looks like aflushing toilet?Here’s why people hate UC’s new logo 29
  30. 30. Headline writers to watch• The Gawker sites (Gawker.com, Gizmodo.com, DeadSpin.com)• TheAtlanticWire.com• Quartz (qz.com)• Forbes• The Two-Way (npr.org) 30
  31. 31. Assignment!1. Select three stories your station created.2. Write 5-10 headlines for each.3. Highlight the best headline with an asterisk.4. E-mail everything to dseditorial@npr.org. Put your station name in the subject line. 31
  32. 32. Questions?eathas@npr.org 32

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